Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's All in the Reflexes

Well, my darlings. Here we are. My first epic fail since deciding to keep this blog seriously. Seems only right to use this post to detail for all of you another tale of can't-quite-measure-uptitude. And yet from the ashes of all my wasted efforts for the month of November, perhaps something tiny and small has been reborn. Perhaps this thing can be nurtured through the winter months and bloom with the coming of spring into a worthwhile enterprise. Perhaps I can, for once in my entire life, make money from writing. Or at least start edging my way towards a real career. Don't want to get my expectations too high, after all. Let's begin then, shall we?

I won't waste your time with too many mea culpa's because that gets tedious pretty fast and also I don't feel very sorry. Sure, I'm supposed to care about this, and on many levels I do. Inconsistency is the death knell of any author platform, that much I have had drilled into my brain since I first started research on how not to fail at being an author. So far, it's coming along swimmingly. I haven't failed at being an author yet, as I can't seem to figure out how to become one in the first place. More on that later. As for my unforgivable transgression of having missed a post for November, my reason is mostly that I forgot because I was too depressed over NaNoWriMo to sit down and admit to a bunch of people, some of whom I don't know, that I suck at NaNoWriMo. I've done it three goddamn years in a row now and I cannot succeed at it. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it lasts all of November. The aim is finish a book, or at least 50,000 words of a book by the end of November. At least 50,000 words. I don't know if any of you have ever written 50,000 words of anything before but I can tell you something: it is hard. It doesn't seem like it at first. It's just a number, right? It's not like it's 50,000 pages, or something insane like that. I can handle that much in 30 days. As it turns out, no I can't. I so far have a habit of lasting two weeks and doing maybe 21,00 words give or take, before exhaustion and a lack of research grind me to a halt and I dither for a bit, tell myself I'll make up the lost time and double-post a few days in a row and then, and then....

And suddenly it's December and the bitter oily taste of failure starts creeping down my throat like a post-nasal drip of anticlimax. It's gross. The good news is that somewhere in all this disappointment I've started yet another story project, this one somehow less depressing than my other two projects even though its primary focus is catching a serial killer who burns people. Make of that what you will. The downside is crushing self-recrimination and the fact that most of what I wrote for the new project is unusable nonsense chatter between my main characters. Not my best showing all around. The big stymie for this story seems to be that I've gone far out of my comfort zone and set it in the real world. It's still fiction, obviously, but instead of inventing a new world as is my usual wont, I've put the action in Chicago. It requires a staggering amount of research into real police procedural and there's a lot I need to know before I feel secure enough to punch the throttle on this story and run with it. Research I did not do prior to NaNoWriMo kicking off. So I went as far as I could with it until I really couldn't put off certain parts of the mystery-solving any longer, and my inability to figure out whether Chicago PD stations have onsite forensic labs put the kibosh on the whole enterprise. For now.

In addition to NaNoWriMo, November saw a lot of general soul-searching and giving my life a good Clint Eastwood stare-down while chewing an imaginary cigarillo and growling threats under my breath. When that didn't manage to scare up any kind of meaningful answers, I did what I usually do: watch Cinema Sins on Youtube over and over until my eyes bleed. Then I started looking for a new job. This went about as well as expected. I've been wanting for a while now to finally break out into a grownup person job that has a salary instead of hourly wage, offers me reasonable pay raises and benefits and a retirement plan with stock options and not make me hate my life. The last is really the primary concern. I realize that my ultimate dream of being a self-sustaining writer living solely off what I rake in with my literary prowess is not going to spring into existence fully realized in the next 24 hours, and until then it would be in my best interest to have a source of income. I've written previously about the necessity of dreamers to get down off their Cloud 9 and join the real world long enough to not starve to death, so I'm obviously not about to recant that position because food is pretty cool. But I am getting very weary off all these crap jobs that somehow manage to be tedious, boring, and yet incredibly busy. You'd think if I was so busy I wouldn't have time to be bored. Apparently I have a capacity to get bored while running around with my head cut off because my section of the restaurant exploded full of people all at once and I'm too busy to do anything but hum Bolero at the top of my lungs to keep the panic attack at bay. I am still bored then.

Boredom is kryptonite for me. When I get bored I get angry. At everyone, everything; my life, my neighbors, people I consider my friends, people I don't even know. I turn into this tightly coiled ball of rage and resentment hellbent on destroying people that I perceive as being happier or more successful than me.

Like this, but with a bigger blast radius

Luckily, the other thing boredom does is depress me, so I'm usually too much of a sad sack to get around to much world devouring and everyone can sleep safely for another night.

In spite of all my dissatisfaction, I'm trying to catch my life on the rebound from this latest backboard-shot. I'm now attempting to break into the world of freelance writing. So far there's a bit of promise; I already have a couple journalism assignments lined up from a newspaper back in my hometown, and I have my eye on a travel site that's looking for more copywriters to research hotels and crap. I can totally do that. I'm great at research, and considering I just recently planned a fairly big trip for later next year I've already got some recent practical experience in making sure I'm not about to stay in an opium den masquerading as a 4-star hotel. That's just the worst. I still have several things working against me, my entire lack of experience in this field being a big one. Like any career in the universe, no one seems inclined to take a chance on you if you haven't already done the job, and yet how can you know how to do the job if no one will let you? So I've joined the thousand of shiny professional people on LinkedIn to try and get my name out there and dig up potential job opportunities. To date I have a small clutch of connections, which is cool. The fact that 98% of them are related to me doesn't mean anything so shut up.

I'll leave you all on this cautiously optimistic note and pray it ends better than the other cautiously optimistic notes I've started on this blog that all fell flat. It is my hope that I'll have another post up for you before January so I can pretend I didn't miss a month there towards the end. Perhaps with some good news to share about my fledgling new career move. Only time will tell. and I expect to ingest copious amounts of chocolate and holiday cheer (i.e. alcohol) until then. Thanks for sticking with me, and have yourselves a Happy Holiday season, everyone. I'll be back after Christmas!

And for those who like a little abject terror with their Winter Wonderlands, go check out the latest from Cinema Chicanery, Brighid's Pick: The Terminator. It's Ho-Ho-Horrifying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We're all mad here...

Whew! Just skating by on the skin of my teeth with this one, folks. I am the worst. But I got in October's Official Blog Post of Bloggy-Thing before October ended, so I can put the self-flagellation on hold for my next near miss. I suppose I've been lacking that writing buzz, the motivation to spit my inner most thoughts into genuine moments of artistic expression. Or I've been spending all my energy analyzing a manga series. Whichever. 

But one thing that has definitely taken some wind out of my sails: I now have a mortal enemy.

I don't relish it. It's kind of uncomfortable and irrational and I feel more like a crazy person for it. Especially because I have based this blood feud entirely on one part of one interview with a writer I've never met, researched, or read any pieces by. But as has been previously mentioned, I am a nutcase, and that has never more evident than when I find myself vibrating in vicious, jealous rage over a throwaway line in a magazine interview that was all of four paragraphs long. Who was this controversial, possibly satanic interviewee in question? Haruki Murakami.


I'd like to make it perfectly clear before we proceed that Mr. Murakami is likely a wonderful person, or at least not a despotic tyrant whose sole aim in life from the time of his birth was to one day make me feel inadequate. I'm not so insane as to think my delusional feelings of oppression and judgment are anything but that. Murakami is, I am certain, a very talented and devoted writer; his books are very popular and seem to garner a good deal of acclaim, and reading 1Q84 is on my to-do list somewhere after getting my own book published and living in an apartment that isn't overrun with goddamm centipedes, goddammit. And it is that reason that I despise the air he respires. Perhaps I'm still clinging to a childish expectation of the world somehow being fair or making sense or not being terrible, but the reason for my unreasonable bitterness was this single revelation: Murakami, so he claims, never gets writer's block.

Bullshit, I say. Or maybe he's just incredibly lucky, but the more likely explanation is that I suck. I cannot comprehend not having writer's block. I went a full three years before a story idea I'd come up with finally started resolving itself into a narrative. I'm stalling out now as I write this because editing is crushing my soul and I'm too guilt-ridden to pick up a new project. Murakami sits down every morning and writes for like 4 hours or something. Every. Damn. Morning. I try to make myself feel better by thinking if I didn't have to go to a real job then I, too could write for hours at a time. I can't because I'm poor and not in a position to support myself on my writing alone, which earns me precisely zero dollars. But there's this little voice in the back of my head that tells me even if I had all the time in the world too be writing, I'd probably be too busy rewatching every single Epic Rap Battle of History video and reading One Piece to bother.

The other side of it, though, is that I don't write in that kind of linear, regimented way. If I try to write when I'm not feeling it, my brain punishes me by producing nothing but unusable garbage. I don't write like a clearheaded, rational individual; I write like a mental patient. My process, in as much as I have one, is too organic for that kind of approach. Or for a less "English major" answer, I write only what the voices in my head tell me to and if they ain't talking, I ain't writing. If that sounds sort of schizophrenic-y, don't worry. I've long since come to the conclusion that I am one major traumatic incident away from completely detaching from reality. I’m way ahead of you.

It's impossible, though, to explain how I feel about my stories and where they come from without sounding certifiable. I say "come from" because I mean it literally. I don't believe I generate my stories from my own mind. Bolts of inspiration don't feel like my impressive genius taking flight. I am not discovering or even creating anything. More accurately it feels like these stories already exist. They are somewhere else, real but ephemeral, and every moment of inspiration striking is just the veil being drawn back and allowing me another glimpse. One more piece to fit together in the whole. It's probably why creative writing majors always annoyed the piss out of me. I never got the sense from them that they really appreciated the gift inherent in writing, and I'm not talking about the talent to actually do it. I'm talking about the stories themselves. Not to cheapen any writer's work or downplay the research and careful plotting that goes into a book; I'm not saying whole narratives just fall out of the sky and concuss people into jotting it all down. I'm simply advocating for something of the Other involved in the creative process. Just don’t take all the credit for yourself, yeah? 

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the only person who feels that way, or maybe I’m just one kind of writer in an underground well of writers who engage their stories from this angle and allow them to flourish or wither without any direct interference. I’ve read many an advice book from writers for writers, and whenever the discussion comes round to how they develop characters it starts sounding like a guidebook for the most horrific parents imaginable. Some people are of the, “Yeah I keep my characters on a tight leash so they don’t go wandering off somewhere I don’t want them going” school of thought, while others are more in the “Oh my characters are so unruly I can barely keep up with them, always changing and getting off point” camp. They all have their own approaches to their own characters and each strategy is slightly different from the last, and the only thing these writers can agree on is that they are the only ones doing it right. So maybe Murakami is right to adhere to a strict writing regimen no matter how he feels or what his characters are doing. Or maybe I’m right, to be patient and coax my stories and walk away for a while until they start behaving again, goddamnit, you’re embarrassing me in front of the other writers, no dessert for you!

Or maybe all of writing is just making up lies and this has been nothing more than a flowery attempt to excuse my own laziness and inability to discipline myself for any meaningful length of time. Who can tell? I certainly can't. Now leave me alone, the voices are trying to tell me about plot devices...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Do you know what lives in your walls? It's nightmares.

So. A thing happened to me a while ago. I don't post often about actual events from my actual life because typically there is nothing happening worth reporting, or nothing I would want to tell strangers on the internet about. But as I said, a thing happened. That thing was getting into a fight with a centipede.

Centipedes are too horrifying to depict, so pretend these kittens in teacups are grotesque many-legged monsters.

Yes, that's right. A centipede. Save your incredulous laughter until after I explain, because I promise it will be a lot funnier then. For you, that is. It still isn't super funny for me. Once upon a time in an old crumbly Victorian apartment that I share with two other people, I was the Chief Executioner of the Dreaded Centipede. The capitals are necessary because centipedes are literally just the worst. Their legs are too long and too numerous, they move too fast and they can grow way, way too goddamn big. They are the embodiment of everything that has ever ruined a person's will to live and I used to be ace at killing them. I'd stop mid-sentence, whip my shoe off and fly clear across the living room to murder one of those bastards, and I rarely ever missed. I was practically a god. What happened to my prowess, you may be asking right now, since these exploits are all clearly past tense. The truth is I have no idea what happened. I don't know what switch got flipped in my brain, or what new secretion from my amygdala changed how I respond to these abominations, but the result is still the same.

I am terrified of centipedes now. Straight up, no bullshit terrified. I think I have a phobia. So on to the "thing" that happened: the moment when I became aware of this new development. It was around four weeks ago, on a Monday night and I was just minding my own business in my own room, doing stupid stuff on Youtube and trying to convince myself I should really go to bed soon since I worked the next day. Then something moved out of the corner of my eye and I looked up. That's when I saw it. The Centipede. And he was a big sucker. And he was scurrying around way up at the top of my eight-foot-high wall, trying to find a gap between it and the ceiling to escape somewhere else. Only he was taking forever and I was freaking out harder and harder the longer he stayed up there, taunting me with his movement but never coming into the Kill Zone, AKA the area within my reach. I panicked. Really and truly, I started crying and feeling like I was gonna puke as I cringed away from him. I think I started yelling abuse at him after a while, disgusted and infuriated that he wouldn't just get the hell away from me. And then, finally, he creeped down the wall far enough for me to get at him.

Which is when I froze. I started sobbing for real and gagging and wondering since when the hell exactly was I this freaked out by centipedes, what happened to me, I used to be awesome at this! So I swallowed my horror and went for it. And missed, because I suck now apparently. He scurried back up the wall, but only just out of reach. I thought for a moment about waking up one of roommates to come help me, but that seemed pathetic and really, I could handle this. Really.

I couldn't handle it, as it turned out. I grabbed a chair from my desk, the non-rolly kind so I thought yeah, this'll be fine. I hoisted myself up, unable to control my instinctive lean away from the motionless blight on creation just hanging out on my wall. With paper towel-wad in hand I went in for the kill once more. And caught him. I thought. Until I pulled my hand away from the wall and he fell the hell off in my  direction oh Christ oh shit what what where did he go....

And then I fell off the chair. For about thirty seconds I was still more concerned about where the centipede got to and there he was, on the floor scurrying away and thankfully not in my direction. I heaved a sigh of relief. Which is when the pain finally set in. Evidently I had tried "stepping" off the chair, and I say that in quotes because it clearly didn't work out too well for me. The second the ball of my foot hit the floor my ankle gave out and rolled under me. In retrospect it's pretty lucky I fell the way I did. Too far of a lunge backwards and I probably would have knocked my head on my desk which was, oh, right directly behind me. That's the second time now I've fallen over in this narrow-ass apartment and managed to avoided braining myself. Hooray? Anyway, I sprained my ankle pretty bad and I was sort of stuck there where I fell, hyperventilating and trying not to vomit for real because my roommates were asleep and hadn't heard me fall and I was too far from my phone to call for outside help. Obviously all that got resolved and in reality it only lasted about fifteen minutes before I could drag myself back to my bed, but it felt like an eon while it was happening.

It has gotten a bit better since then, I can walk sort of okay now, but only ever with a brace and I still use one crutch if I have to go any kind of long distance. The main concern right now is the fact that my toes are kind of wonky and don't want to function correctly. They don't really hurt, and they never got super swollen they just...seem to have forgotten how toes work. It's annoying. Tomorrow I'm going to cave and get an X-ray, entirely too late into my recovery period but I have issues coping with stress and apparently the only way I could get on with my life was to just keep pretending it "wasn't that bad," which is a practice espoused by my father, the man who has had four different knee surgeries before the age of 60. But I managed to shave my legs in the shower today for the first time in four weeks and I walked to my neighborhood Starbucks without any crutches so, y'know. Little victories and all that.

But that centipede is of course still out there. Lurking. Watching. Waiting for the perfect moment to emerge from the ceiling and fall in your hair oh god run run kill it with fire!

It's only a matter of time...

Friday, September 12, 2014

We interrupt this program to bring you Nepotism. This is not a test.

Hello all! First and upfront, this is not my Official September Blog Post Thingy. This is just a brief announcement for anyone who may be interested that I had a guest spot over at my sibling's blog, Cinema Chicanery this week! It was very different for me and a lot of fun and I hope to tag along again sometime if they need another fill-in, or a particularly awesome film gets chosen (hinthint: Big Trouble in Little China). So go check it out, take a gander at their other posts, and feel free to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to keep up with their latest blog entries and fast shot movie reviews.

I'll be back before too long with the No Really I Mean It This Time Official Blog Post Thing for September.

We return you now to your regularly scheduled internet.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What can you do with a BA in Tedium?

Guh. So I thought I was way overdue for an update on how my book-writing process has been going, rather than rambling eternally on my obsessions and random thoughts on life. The only drawback to this being that rewriting my story the second time is just about as soul-drainingly dull as it was the first time I did it. It is my fervent hope that I can round up this set of revisions faster than my previous benchmark, which clocked in at a staggering eight months. Eight months! One more month and theoretically I could have brought an entire human being into existence, and instead the only thing I had to show for it was a still mostly mangled second draft of a seriously mangled first draft of a story about aphrodisiacs and death. My feelings on this achievement you may have encountered here, and they were tepid to say the least. Now I'm doing it all again, because being a writer is in fact the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting my story to one day be perfect. Ha! How tragic.

What has been interesting in all this for me is the revelation that I don't actually know how books are laid out. Yeah I've read them before, obviously, at least five or so. But to actually sit down in front of my sprawling Word.doc and try to figure out how chapters work was something that took me a surprising amount of time to plunk through. Also I don't understand title pages, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it. I've come to expect this journey to be a matryoshka doll of things I didn't know I didn't know, but it's still pretty jarring all the same.

They know where your organs live.....

At this point in the process I'm actually only 92% sure I know how dialogue is supposed to be spaced, but who can really tell? An editor, that's who could tell. But on that point I am yet again at a stand-still. Every milestone I haltingly manage to achieve tends to be followed by a giant gouge dug in the metaphorical field of progress, and like a displaced hobbit among hostile climes I have to tumble-climb my way down the jagged precipices until I get to the next plateau and repeat steps A through Just-Kill-Me-Please. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe. But my life is more boring than I can possibly explain and I get my kicks through hyperbole. Sue me. (Please don't, I have none of the monies. These are not the monies you're looking for.)

Finding an editor may not be the serendipitous exercise I had sort of hoped it would be. One day on my way home from my dull-as-dust captioning job I stopped in at the old diner where I used to work because as much as I may have disliked that job passionately I adored my supervisor and occasionally like to catch up. On this particular afternoon my old supervisor was busy managing customers and dealing with the cash register so I started reading a discarded newspaper from earlier that day, when I chanced upon an article about a local small-time publisher in town who helps with writing classes, classes on getting published, support for self-publishing authors, and editing jobs. I thought to myself, "And lo, did the light of epiphany shine down upon this shitty diner newspaper, and it was good." I thought my question had been answered before I even had a chance to ask it. I thought, surely, this was too perfect to not be meant for me. A sign from the universe, or God, or the ghost of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whatever, that this venture of mine was meant to be and I would eventually succeed.

Oh how naive I had been only months earlier. I wrote the publisher/editor's contact info down because it seemed like the thing to do, and once I was done with the first rounds of revision I foolishly thought that now was the time to strike, now was the time to reach out and make contact with an actual, bona fide professional and get some hard-nosed advice. I sent a message, explaining myself and beseeching some preliminary contact (wary, as I had read off her website that official consultations cost over $200.) I got a message back from her, oh happy day! Asking for more information about my story, what sort it was, what I was hoping to do with it. Flush with the first moment of ease and true triumph since I sat down two Novembers ago and decided to churn out this obnoxious opus, I fired off my response and sat back to wait, confident that soon I would be granted a pass into the exclusive club of People-who-have-any-damn-idea-what-they-are-doing.

And I waited. And waited. And waited. Close to three weeks went by and after whining about the sudden lapse in dialogue with a stranger who had taken an inexplicable interest in my life story, was told to message this editor again, and not to stop until I heard back. "Show her you mean business, that you really want it!" the stranger told me, only to meander off and never speak to me again. So I went home, hopped on the ol'computer lap device and did just that; as politely yet firmly as I could I asked for a reply, asked that this editor pay attention to my plight because I could really use some help right about now. And what do you know, it worked! A few days later I had a new message from her and I was once more filled with a sense of rightness, that this was my path, that this person was destined to render me succor and wisdom.

Then I read the message. The message that was word for word verbatim to the first message she had sent me. And I realized that she had not read my desperate plea, or the explanation of my story (since she was asking about it again as though we hadn't already covered this); that she likely hadn't even read my very first attempt at an overture because this was obviously a pat-response, the sort of "Select Message All" you pull on Facebook when 82 people you hardly know wish you a happy birthday. Disheartening doesn't even come close. So I'm back at square one with finding an editor, which I suppose is just as well given my current position of rewriting my story a second time. I don't know when is the appropriate time to try for an editor again. Maybe after these revisions? Maybe after the third? Hell if I know. Logic tells me I should wait until the book is as close to perfect for me as I can get it before I hand it over to an objective third party, but then there's also the niggling thought that maybe I should leave myself some wiggle room so it isn't totally devastating when the editor tells me to scrap everything and start over at the beginning. At least there will be fewer tears and bloodshed in the manuscript for me to heartlessly cast aside, and I won't feel like this was a conclusion I could have come to without all the agony of editing this beast infinity times on my own. Knowing me I'll end up putting in exponentially more effort than was needed, because I can't seem to do anything the easy way and my life enjoys being a pointless uphill scale when there's been a lovely paved path right the hell next to me the entire time. Whichever way it turns out, I'll end up feeling like a moron before all is said and done. But hey! At least it'll be done.

Then I can get back to my other book that I've been working on for even longer. Ha ha! Being an author is so rewarding!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A fine line between genius and insanity

I don't know if any sane person reacts to stuff like I do or if anyone reading this can relate, but I'm pretty sure I have a problem. I have an array of interests, some erudite and some just stupid. I figure most people do. I also figure most people get a little verklempt about the things they dedicate they're time to knowing and following, and perhaps even get a bit hot under the collar when debates pop up. It can be anything, really. Sports, politics, music genres, movies, books, art; the list goes on with many subcategories and niche fan groups. This seems reasonable, even if in the midst of an argument over whether Ocean Group or Funimation had the best Dragon Ball Z dub it seems pretty damn unreasonable that anyone should even care (and besides the answer is actually TeamFourStar). But it's reasonable because just about everyone does it, at least on occasion, and anyway the subtitled Japanese version is the only one worth your time. Get on my level, guys.

But I'm not talking about that. That's normal caring-too-much-about-interests stuff. I'm talking about I-think-I-have-a-brain-disorder level of obsession. I watch movies, love them, and then I go on Youtube and watch all the trailers over again, and watch all the interviews with the actors, and the premiere footage, and their panel at ComiCon, and even sometimes some artfully spliced-together music videos if they aren't so saccharine I'll hate myself more than usual afterwards. That's stage one. Stage two is after the DVD/Blu-ray comes out. Then I watch the movie eight times. Then I go back and replay individual scenes I liked the best. Then I watch the entire move again but this time with cast/director commentary. Then I watch all the making-of's, blooper reels, cast bios, special effects tutorials, deleted scenes and alternate endings. Then I start all over again. Pretty sick, right? Pretty much I need a more engaging hobby and maybe a social life. Yeah, trust me I know. Because this isn't even the worst that it gets.

I've alluded in previous posts about how much I enjoy the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in particular Sherlock Holmes, and that even more particularly I am a fan of the BBC's modern adaptation of it with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

The true face of friendship: a horrifying yellow smiley face riddled with bullets

I mean, who isn't? Just look at them! To be fair, though, "enjoy" is something of an understatement. I have issues with this show. Serious emotional and possibly mental issues. To date, I am incapable of ever watching an episode of Sherlock the first time through in the presence of another person. At first it wasn't intentional; I was the first person of any of my friends or family to hear about it and watch it, and I wanted to make sure it didn't suck before sharing it with my nearest and dearest. By the time Season 1's heart-stopping finale dug it's fingers into the craggy cliff-face and started swaying in the wind it had dawned on me that I had a very good reason for watching them alone. Because I freaked out every. Single. Episode. I am in no way exaggerating. Screaming, sobbing, laughing, squealing, occasionally ripping at my hair and cussing at my computer, which of course I had my headphones plugged into so it was just me kicking up a ruckus in an otherwise silent room; having an actual, legitimate fit. It's mortifying, but I can't stop it. There aren't words to convey what the episode "His Last Vow" did to me. I rolled into bed and tearfully vibrated for about five minutes, I was so maxed out from caring so damn much. The writers of this show are evil geniuses and they have my heart-strings wrapped around their knobbly, sadistic knuckles. I don't stand a chance.

And my preoccupation with this show goes beyond even my typical level of enthusiasm. It isn't just the show and the actors and the making-of's and interviews. The way my brain works, I make iron-clad associations with even tertiary details of the show, and if I ever encounter those same details in my everyday life outside the context of Sherlock I react like I'm having a stroke. I was out at a bar with some friends and recognized a song that had played during the Season 3 episode "The Sign of Three" and it felt like my brain was on fire, it got so revved up making that connection. This stupid show ruined a perfectly popular Four Seasons song for me, because now I can't hear it without thinking about John and Sherlock and Mary being lovely together. It's disgusting. It is in my brain like a disease and I am incapable of tempering my reaction to it or anything I even remotely associate with it.

And I'm pretty sure that is not normal. The way my friends look at me when I get an impromptu rant on, I assume even they don't think this is normal. Frankly, I'm surprised none of them have staged interventions for me. I have told them some worrying things in the euphoric high I get on when exposed to really clever/awesome shows, none of which will ever be repeated here for fear of legal action taken against me. I don't have money for a lawyer, guys, and one of my more dubious ramblings at one point involved a secret basement underneath the actual basement of a fairly well-known actor. I think my roommate seriously considered getting me a psych. eval the night I came up with this. So yes, I have problems. Clearly. But I don't think they make a medication to treat "loving Sherlock Holmes too much" and if they did, I probably wouldn't take it anyway. I guess I'm just doomed to twiddle my thumbs during the inevitable two year wait for new seasons and then make sure I get through the rending-of-garments phase in solitude.
In retrospect, it's probably a blessing that each season is only three episodes long because if they were any longer I'd probably snap and need to be institutionalized.

Oh, what's that you say Internet? Season 4 has been confirmed? How lovely! Oh wait, and you say say it's going to have four episodes? I see. And it's a Christmas Special? Uh huh.....

.......anyone know of a good psych ward? Preferably one with internet access?

Friday, June 27, 2014

"The jungle is dark but full of diamonds..."*

On a particularly piteous kind of day, I started hum-drumming about all my financial burdens and the creaky, leaky apartment that I share with two other people and the job I find duller than staple-gunning vinyl to chairs and then doing that same thing for 8 hours, when it dawned on me. I have been lied to. We all have, in fact. Forever. Now I'm sure this comes as no surprise to the misanthropes out there, but in this particular case I find it sort of unnecessary. To clarify, it isn't so much lying as just...not talking about certain things. So basically all politics everywhere, only not as tyrannical or soul-crushing. Mostly.

The lie of omission is essentially this: I don't think people realize how hard it is to pursue your dreams. Mostly because the people who actually do succeed in achieving them only really talk about the euphoria and the joy inherent in what they get to do now. And that's fine, they should talk about that because pointing out the silver-lining can only encourage other people to keep slogging through. But I've never been a rose-tinted-glasses kind of person. I'm no pessimist, either, but I'm not one to get lost in delusions of my own idealized reality. So while the success stories are good and serve a purpose, I think it's just as useful to talk about the struggle to get there. The After is a very pretty picture, but the Before is the more comforting image.

People setting out to pave their own way, following their dreams, choosing the road less traveled and all that jazz; they know there will be difficulty along the way. Pretty much comes with the territory. But what I don't think they realize, what I certainly didn't realize before joining the workaday world, is that the hard part isn't necessarily the steps directly related to attaining your dream-whatever. It's every other part of your life, all the time. And it isn't only the artists and writers and actors and musicians, the creatives and Bohemians. It could be starting your own business, designing your dream house, an invention you're trying to get off the ground or even just your ideal career. It's dragging yourself through schooling and shelling out your carefully saved pennies for tuition and supplies, it's massive amounts of debt and working odd jobs you hate because your field is bottle-necked and no one is hiring. It's the creepy-crawly feel of futility coloring all your small victories, the sweetness of a hard won comfortable life leaving a bitter tang in your mouth because none of it feels real yet, none of it is "your life."

And while dreams are always laudatory things, sought after and prized, there is never any discussion about how having a dream can be a double-edged sword. On the one side it's passion, drive, gives you direction and something to aim for, puts up rudders for you to steer your life by. But for those who aren't able to realizes their dreams, or even those who struggle for years and years to get there, the effect it can have on their perception of life is...disappointing. Hope can be dangerous when it is constantly beaten down. There is no despair if you never expected better to begin with, and having that One True Calling that never manages to break into the real world can be its own exquisite form of masochism. Just ask Willy Lowman.

But that isn't to say dreams are an evil. I'm just saying they need to be approached realistically. Don't work yourself into a corner, refusing to take minimum wage jobs because working at McDonald's so you can feed and shelter yourself will somehow cheapen your "craft." The starving artist is a lovely romantic ideal and that's great and all, but do you know what the starving artist actually is? Hungry. The starving artist is living off ramen they heated up over a garbage fire because they're actually squatting, have no heat, and no one's around to enforce fire codes. The cast of RENT is a prime example. They were all "dedicated to their craft" and what happened to them? Couldn't afford their rent (spoiler alert!), became truants, half of them had AIDS or drug addictions or both, and the most talented one of the bunch dies before the end. Take all the sweeping rock-opera numbers out and you are left with a fairly tragic grumble of people who, at the end of the day, have basically nowhere to go. Gainful employment is not conceding to the man. It's being a functioning goddamn member of society.

So I guess the message for today is yes, go out there, dream big, refuse to settle for second-rate or less than your best. But understand that there are steps that have to be taken, that just about everyone has to take before they can get to the point where they can do what they really want. Don't back-burner your dreams by any means, because like as not you'll just keep putting them off until one day you're a failed salesman with a dismal home life and you're rolling your inadequate car off the road so your loved ones can collect on your life insurance policy. No one needs that drama. But do go into life knowing that there will be drudgery, expecting it, embracing it, so it doesn't catch you completely off-guard when the time comes to join the great cesspool of iniquity and doubt that is early adulthood. It took me off-guard, and that's why I sit in a tiny grey cubicle musing on existential crises. Never fear, though, I won't be pulling a Death of a Salesman anytime soon.

I don't even own a car.

*Quote from Death of a Salesman

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Taxonomy of Art

So I've hit a bit of a tangle, not surprising given all my progress feels like flailing in the dark. It seems such a tiny issue, or maybe it only seems that way to me, which is why it's an issue to begin with: I can't tell when my issues are issues, or me just over-thinking. The trouble is genre. Specifically, what genre is my story? You'd think I would know by now. It's been a year since I finished writing the stupid thing, and I've revised once already, so where exactly is the grey area? Where is there possibly an unturned stone? In any case this has become a concern now that I have to turn my mind from writing and editing and focus instead on writing and editing and marketing. At least I'm never bored.

Because that's what everyone wants to know. Whether you're getting published through one of the Big 6 or just getting some sage advice on building a reader base for your self-published novel, at some point someone will ask, "So what kind of story is it?" Not, "what is your story about?", though they'll want to know that, too. It's your originality that will intrigue readers, but it's your conformity that will cinch sales. That's not to say experimental writing can't make it, but in order to be marketable you have to (apparently) straddle an arbitrary line between the unfamiliar and the recognizable. You must be singular and fresh and different while still fitting certain guidelines to turn a profit. It's a very awkward pill to swallow, as a writer.

So my book. What kind of book is it? I made a list of the different genres I thought it could be and checked it against the glossary in the back of my Writer's Market and promptly found that my book doesn't fit any of them 100%. I'm sure plenty of writers find this to be the case, odd angles of narrative flopping out over the edges of their genre shoebox. The question on my mind is: "What do I do about this? If anything?" Is this a big deal? Is this, in fact, a problem? I mean my book does fit one of the Sci Fi subgenres pretty close, and if ever asked that's what I'd call it. But do I tweak the parts that don't fit? Do I trim and prune them until it all fits in the box as it ought? Or do I just let the story hang all out, embrace its abnormalities, scoff in the face of type and expectations? Tough call, considering no on knows who I am and bucking tradition is traditionally sort of isolating. And I'm not really a rebel, unless 'rebel' here means "wanting to do what I want to do." I'm pretty sure I need more in the way of social commentary or moral debate in my work to be a rebel. I just want to tell the story that came to me when I was half-asleep and it seemed reasonable to have a society based entirely on aphrodisiacs and perpetual imprisonment, because my mind is evidently a terrifying place. Yes, there are some very objectionable things that happen, but they aren't discussed in terms of "right" and "wrong." It's more like: you did something to me I didn't like so now I will wreck your everything. It's like Brave New World if instead of John the Savage as the protagonist it was The Bride from Kill Bill. It's basically a revenge story that accidentally topples an unscrupulous regime only no one else knew it existed, no one welcomes them as heroes, and they go about it in a frankly un-heroic way (which is putting it lightly). It survives mostly on character-study, cursing, and a dark sense of humor in the face of a very bleak reality. So, you know, a family favorite in the making.

I just need someone to talk to, is what this all boils down to. I need someone with some amount of experience to say hey, you're focusing too much on this thing, over here is where your energy should be spent. And not another author. Other authors have great advice, and more than that they make this whole getting published thing seem attainable, in a they-did-it-so-can-I sort of way. I still always, always want to hear from authors about how they managed to succeed. But what I need, at the moment, is someone who doesn't have a personal anecdote for me, but a bullet-point presentation complete with swooping graphic designs and artful dissolving techniques, something tangible I can put a benchmark on or cross off a list so I can gauge progress. I need something more concrete than people telling me "well I just did this that and the other thing and BAM, Best Seller's List." That's great, but the big drawback for any author's success story is just that: it's a story. It's the way in which it worked out for them, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it will work for me. Sure, I appreciate being given new ideas for what to try, but at the end of the day it still feels like I'm in this alone. They can shower me with all the names and listings and how-to's until I suffocate in it, but I still have to go home and plod this all out by myself, like a desperate attempt to throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the wall and see what sticks around. It's a tightrope walk between endless possibilities and a paralysis of indecision. I could do everything, which means I'll end up doing nothing. And I don't want that to be how this endeavor goes. In the end, though, I think it's pretty clear what sort of person I have to talk to.

Guys, I need an editor.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Brave Not-so-New World

All right everyone. Enough of this crap. Dust your asses off, because I'm shifting gears. No more flailing around bemoaning my fate at the hands of a cruel and unfeeling universe. Time to get up, get in there, and get my hands dirty. What am I talking about, you ask? The same thing I talk about all the damn time on this blog, Pinky. Getting Published.

And then taking over the world.

So first things first: a little temporal refreshment. I've been mum about my progress within the boggy moor of getting published, in large part because I have made no progress. But! Despair not, all those who stumble blindly onto my page by hitting the 'Next Blog' button too many times. I now have the power within my grasp and I am drunk on possibilities. To whit, I am now in possession of one of the most comprehensive guides to getting your aimless drivel polished up and worth anyone's notice. The Novel and Short Story Writer's Market 2014.


 It is gorgeous and intimidating and my holy grail, at this point. If you are also trundling along this murky path with me, I highly suggest this as a good beginning point. I made a brief study of several different version of the Writer's Market, including the actual Writer's Market (yes there are multiple focuses and specialties, in various sized tomes, all of them $30 a pop. I almost had a fit in my local bookstore). While all of them have useful information and very exhaustive lists of magazines, book publishers, and literary agents, some are slightly more novice-friendly. I have so far found great advice and the starts of many a brain-storming session all alone in my cubicle at work about what direction I want to take my book and how I might go about achieving the best results for that end. I seriously recommend it. In fact, I would be so bold as to say you need this book. Go buy it now. Right this instant. But you're not a writer, you protest? You will be in about ten or fifteen years. Everyone wants to write a book once, might as well start preparing now.

The second thing is more embarrassing to admit to, but it was pretty monumental for me anyway. I finally entered the modern age and got myself a smartphone. For the record, no I am not 58 years old. I'm actually 24, if you must know, but I have an old soul and am therefore terrified of bright shiny things I don't understand and I also have no money. But the boon of such a thing, which I imagine is painfully obvious to everyone but me until five days ago, is that I can now keep up with my online presence more so than before. Let me revise that: I can now have an online presence more so than before. And that will be super useful, nay essential, in my attempts to get published and then actually succeed at it. There a bunch of grown-up terms I learned in my Writer's Market, one of which was "building an author platform." The difficulty, other than logging the sheer man hours required to make this profitable, is a complete 180 of priorities for me. Facebook has never been all that important in my life. I'm rarely on it. I don't get Twitter. I only heard of LinkedIn, like, 72 hours ago. It's like I used up all the fucks I gave for online communities during my LiveJournal days and ever since then I was like "meh." So yeah. Stuff I've thought as a non-priority now has to be at the top of my list, and not only do I have to pay attention to all this stuff, but I need to interact with it and find a way to really care about it. That's not to say that the plight of other writers like myself isn't important to me, but I have spent much of my writerly life being shut up in a microcosm of friends and people who share genetics with me. I have a creeping paranoia that if I even breathe a word about my book, someone else will slap their name on it and make millions before I can say COPYRIGHT, BITCH, DROP IT BEFORE I SHANK YOU.

My feelings are pretty strong on this point. Because let's be realistic here, people. The publishing world is not a high-octane, over-caffeinated race to the finish line. It more resembles warfare, in two particular ways: it is a long game of hurry-up-and-wait, and there will be an astronomical amount of bodies to dump in your local landfill by the end of it. But it doesn't have to be that way, is what I am finding out. I've seen publishing and writing careers dramatized in movies and such, and for any intrepid break-out author it's just this vicious backstabbing world of cut throats and assholes out to screw you any way possible and a few ways that defy all rules of physics, just because they can. I am trying to embrace a different reality. It's hard. I have trust issues, largely unfounded to be honest. But I guard my stories snarlingly like a dragon crouched over its gilded hoard and not only will that eventually prove counterproductive, it's murder on the back. Time to grow a trust bone. Also, start giving a crap about tweets.

It'll be an uphill struggle. But worth it at the top, where it looks like it might not be lonely, after all.

Welcome to my blog, the world. I'm going public now.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow

Well, slap me in the teeth with a soldering iron. Not literally, of course, I don't swing that way. But here I am all lazy-arsed after a long day at work and without my even being aware of it I am late, I'm late for a very important date. That date? Today. And what's today? Oh nothing, just Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.

This dapper OG right here

See that pretty face? That oddly Jude-Law-looking bastard? He was probably still on a treacherous northern voyage at this age, clubbing baby seals to death and trying not to drown under an ice flow in arctic waters. You're probably more familiar with this version:

Behold, the Mustache that Launched a Thousand Fanfics

Here we see a settled man, a married man, a man who had recently given the world the greatest detective figure in the English language, the mold which would influence every crimefighting caper and CSI spinoff for the rest of goddamn time who also, while on vacation to save his wife from a debilitating disease, gave skiing to Switzerland.

Oh don't mind me, just shaping this country's entire tourism trade, tra la la 

This is the man who gave new credence to a literary genre which was regarded as simple fluff, changed the way popular literature was considered by the stiff-shirted Literati and cornered the damn market on detective fiction and bro-code adventures while simultaneously resenting every ground-breaking step he ever took and wondering why no one wanted to read more of his flowery Napoleonic historical fiction.

It isn't hard, I don't think, to explain why I love this man so much. His wit and generosity are well-known, but his badassery is only more recently being talked about (this is a man who basically joined a war while on vacation with his family in Egypt because he got bored.) What is hard to explain, because I don't know that I will ever have the words to do it justice, is how much it gnaws at me that I will never be able to meet him. It's one of those things that socks you in the gut with the immutable truth, unalterable and non-negotiable: he is dead and I will never speak with him, not even once, even though I want to so bad my fucking teeth hurt thinking about it. Ever since I bought the Complete Sherlock Holmes willy-nilly off of Amazon all those years ago and decided the only way to experience it for the first time was to read the first chapter of A Study in Scarlet out loud in a British accent, I have wanted to devour everything this man has ever written. Reading Doyle is something familiar and comfortable and savory, an almost tactile experience. The same sort of visceral relish you get from eating your favorite home-cooked meal. And from the very moment I cracked open that book, from the first sentence read in a murmur to my empty room, it's felt exactly like that; like I'm reading stories written to me, for me by an old friend. 

And it isn't just my intense love of the Holmsian arcana that biases me in Doyle's favor. I have tracked down and consumed a number of different novels and short stories he's written, and I can say now definitively that it is Doyle and his distinctive narrative voice that have beguiled me. I immerse myself in one of his stories and it's like slipping into a warm bubble bath with a plate of exotic morsels to snack and a good bottle of wine on a table next to me. Welcoming, soothing, familiar and indulgent. Doyle created a literary craze that wouldn't look out of place on a 12 year old's twitter feed after a One Direction concert, and this was back in the 1890's. Strangers would gather outside his home in droves, wearing black mourning bands and demanding to know why he had killed their hero, as if he'd shot Holmes in the head himself right in front of them. He had perfected a manner of writing that was accessible to the masses, while elevating them to the level of brilliance shared by his protagonist. He made people feel they were part of the action, in on the joke, one of the boys, as it were. He made them feel they were clever, but most importantly, he made them feel like in the fast-changing days of the late-Victorian period that there was someone out there who could make sense of all the day-to-day chaos, who could reach into the morass and pull out the truth. He made people feel like someone cared. 

And Doyle has done that for me. In some of my darkest moments he has been there to light a fire in the hearth, pull up a big squashy chair, make me some tea, and tell me how everything will be alright in the end. Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I never got to meet you, but I will miss you always.

"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent"
-Sir  Arthur Conan Doyle

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime...

The curious incident, of course, is that the dog did nothing in the nighttime, much like how the Shouting Girl at work did not shout. I've never bothered to mention what it is I do for work. I've referenced a waitressing job that I loathed and no longer do, but I never did bother to add in what I now do instead. Part of this is because of incredibly stringent privacy laws that make it almost impossible to really explain what my job entails. The other part is that it's dull as hell. I won't mention company names or anything specific or incriminating; suffice to say I work at a call center that receives and then provides captions on phone calls for the deaf and hearing impaired. It's a pretty sweet gig, if mentally exhausting and frustrating in the wrong sort of circumstances. We are essentially revoicing one-sided conversations we hear into a VR program (voice-recognition) which then converts the audio to text and sends it off to a special telephone with a screen that displays the words. Our computers are touchscreen, so if errors appear we can and are expected to correct them as quickly as we can. Herein lies the problem of Shouting Girl.

It gets exasperating, yeah? I'm the first to admit when my VR is fucking up left and right, words that weren't a problem for me an hour earlier deciding "no, I'd rather come out as something borderline pornographic and mortifying, kthnxbai :D!" I can get a little hot under the collar. I sigh real heavy. I mute my mic and start muttering curses, I flail and silently berate the caller for being just the worst person and making my life super hard, and I am also prone to keyboard-mashing when correcting my VR's very poor sense of humor. I get it. Calls can run for upwards of an hour, they can be slow and non-stop, fast and non-stop, shitty connections, thick accents, any and all of these things contribute to being a very difficult call and a very sad, bruised brain. Everyone groans. Everyone mutters curses. Everyone sighs in relief when such a call is over. I hear it just about anywhere I sit on the call floor.

But then there is the Shouting Girl. I finally was able to find the Shouting Girl, to put a face to the very distinct voice I occasionally encountered. At first she had been a bit of a spectre. I could hear her, no problem. Sometimes two rows behind me, sometimes on the other side of the damn call floor, sometimes (God save me) in the cubicle next to mine. But given the isolated nature of the job and how you're practically chained to your desk unless you have a justified reason to leave it, like a supervisor calls you up or you're on break/lunch or your insides are literally about to rupture from backlogged piss, venturing around in search of the Shouting Girl wasn't quite feasible. And then there would be whole days at a time when I wouldn't hear her at all, where she clearly couldn't be in the building because there is no possible way I and everyone within a thirty foot radius wouldn't be aware of it if she were. I had to move one day, go up to my supervisor and beg her to let me reserve a different cubicle away from the insanity because on that horrible day the Shouting Girl developed a new evil superpower.

See, the groaning and sighing and muttering that all the other employees engage in have one thing in common: being unobtrusive. When the Shouting Girl gets annoyed when her VR has a stroke and goes haywire, she starts off like everyone else, with one difference: she gets louder. As her VR gets shitty, she starts talking louder and slower, which has the unsurprising effect of making her VR even shittier, which means she just gets louder and more frustrated until she is (wait for it) shouting. Shouting, banging the keyboard, making high-pitched screechy noises of vexation, loudly cursing at the computer and basically making herself an auditory spectacle and a serious fucking distraction for anyone unfortunate enough to be within hearing range, which is basically everyone and anywhere.

The day I begged to be moved away from her she was in the row right behind me. And the same ruckus started up like clockwork and I started despairing of my life and the fact that my lunch was still three hours away, leaving me with no means of escaping her by getting a new cubicle organically. Because the Shouting Girl was now no longer the Shouting Girl. She had added crying to the rotation. She was the Crying Shouting Girl. So in addition to her disproportionate rage, I also had to listen to this girl have a meltdown right at her desk directly behind me, all-out sobbing as her VR disappoints and getting herself stuck in yet another infinity loop of fucked up revoicing and feelings of inadequacy. I almost started crying from the insanity of it all. I paused my program when a call finally ended and went and threw myself on my supervisor's mercy. When I said the words "Shouting Girl" she knew exactly who I meant. She said the girl had "problems" not that I asked her to elaborate, but somewhere underneath my very intense irritation and professional embarrassment I was a little worried about whether this job was actually breaking her. I moved, carried on with my job, and the day eventually ended.

I didn't hear from the Shouting Girl for about three weeks, until she sat next to me today. This realization came with familiar feelings of foreboding and dread, thinking I might yet again be forced to uproot myself early and hunt out a new cubicle in order to keep my own mental state somewhere in the realm of functioning.

Enter the curious incident.

Shouting Girl did not shout. She grunted, groaned, sighed and muttered. But she never shouted. Never once raised her voice, banged on the keyboard, shrilled or started weeping. She got annoyed, sure, her VR wasn't perfect. No one's ever is. But she kept her cool. She dealt with her frustration maturely, healthily, without blowing up or falling apart.

It was really goddamn weird. It's come to the point that I actually like having the Shouting Girl shouting. It gives me something to vent my own frustrations at, something concrete I can point to or glare at, to channel my own pointless anger at since I can't ever vent it at some of the frankly awful people I get on the phone. It's cathartic, honestly. I miss it. And if the Shouting Girl has finally started meditating or medicating or whatever method she used to find her inner zen, I'll actually be pretty bummed. Because if the Shouting Girl becomes the Not-Shouting Girl, then that'll just leave me as the Slow-Burning-Homicidal Girl. Which is not a sobriquet I would like to follow me on into the future, especially if there's an incriminating news report to go along with it because that shit takes years and more money than I could feasibly possess or part with to make go away.

But perhaps the Shouting Girl will shout tomorrow and put my world spinning back on it's axis. Then I can stop working on my alibi, since my lack of social life sort of precludes me from having one, which would just be awkward if the police got involved. I'd hate to publish my first book under an assumed identity from a hovel somewhere in Siberia. I'm too egotistical not to take all the credit.

Bark on, doggy. Bark on.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring cleaning for the ADHD mind

I've been thinking of a crapton of ideas for potential posts, since I still want to keep doing this stupid thing. But the main jist of it, i.e. documenting my increasingly tedious and aimless attempts to publish a novel, has been put on hold somewhat while I let my brain defrag and I conduct tedious and aimless research in a bid to find out how, exactly, one goes about getting published while simultaneously waiting for people to read the revised version of my story. It's a necessary break lest my mind go supernova and I do away with my story via defenestration and go pursue a career as a business analyst, or something else equally as horrible.

The question then becomes: what to do with this thing? It's not a pressing question, as I don't imagine I have any readers who are not blood relatives (thank you guys by the way. I feel a bit less like the internet-version of that guy who stands yammering at brick walls awkwardly close to where you wait for the bus to go to work).

Most of the ideas I come up with are rants, because what else is worth reading on the internet if it isn't accompanied by gallons of butthurt and nerdrage. Years ago when I still bothered with it I had accumulated a reputation on livejournal for vast outpourings of nerdrage and other overreactions to things I deemed interests, to the point that members of my friends-list actually waited in anticipation for my inevitable two-cents whenever shit went down on the fandom. No, I will never tell you my LJ name for the simple fact that the account still exists and that feels like asking for trouble. I 'd like to think I've calmed down somewhat from my LJ days, being a college grad and successfully, independently broke for the last two years. If you read my rant about the second Hobbit movie here, that was actually pretty mild, all things considered. I had concise arguments delivered with a clear and pointed intention. There were strong verbs, if I recall. Sure I cursed a few blue streaks, but that's common of just about anything I do, and yeah maybe my language sounded vaguely threatening but only if you're the kind of person who pisses me off. Everyone else would have been safe, honest. Look, I have anger problems, okay? This is not a place for judgment, with the glaring exception of my own judgment because my opinion is the only one that matters. The internet told me so.

One rant I really need to do, and it would probably need to be busted up into a cycle of posts because the length of it as one would be sheer insanity and no one, not even I, would bother reading it: Sherlock Holmes. More specifically the BBC's miniseries Sherlock, but such is the extent of my comprehensive devotion that I will need at least two primer-posts before even starting to talk about Sherlock. Because I have a burning need for everyone to understand why I love it, and why I started loving it, and the whole journey that got me started loving this stupid fucking set of characters as much as I do. It's dumb. I'm sentimental about a lot of things, it's true, but it's usually things steeped in my family. I adore Lord of the Rings and all things Middle-Earth because my mom used to read it to me and my sibling when we were kids. I have an eternal fondness for anime because it was the first thing Conor and I had actual conversations about. My favorite movie of all time is one I used to watch with my whole family when I was seven, laid out on blankets in the living room with big bowls of buttery popcorn and enough room to roll around and cackle at all the parts that kept getting funnier the older I got.

But Holmes has always been different because it wasn't something someone else showed me, nothing I was forced to endure until I finally liked it "for my own good" or an inherited interest passed down from my parents. It was something I tried on a whim, for really no good reason, and fell so madly in love with it that I have to remind myself occasionally that these characters weren't ever real. And since my mind is the type that must forge connections and unearth patterns and otherwise analyse things unto death, I spent a very long time kicking around the "why" of the whole thing. Why these stories? Why these characters? Why this one character in particular? Why this author? Because it wasn't just Holmes and Watson I adored, I fell in love with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well. Why why why? There have been better writers. There have been more in-depth characters, more finely-tuned plots, more engaging mysteries. Why is this the zenith of all my intellectual curiosities? In the end there isn't an answer. I find that frustrating sometimes. I can't stop thinking about things if I still haven't solved them, which almost guarantees I'll never stop being infatuated with all this. It's a life-long affliction. Could be worse, I suppose. It could be herpes.

All the other ideas presenting themselves for bloggability are less hystrionic discourses on the merits and limitations of an anime series I've been revisiting, and one more really choleric rant that I'm sure will be good fun for all, but that will have to wait until after the posts on Sherlock as it directly relates to it. This post I guess you can take or leave. I'm mostly just priming anyone reading this for a slight shift in gear, and considering I can't drive a stick-shift I wanted it to be as disorienting as possible, since this feels about as subtle as a sack of wet pea-gravel to the face, transitionally speaking. I also seem to have a fondness for verbosity and long rambling sentences this post. It's odd how the things you read will influence how you write. I picked up Catch-22 recently and now I just want to throw out pretty ten-dollar words that no one  understands because my brain doesn't acknowledge the concept of "vernacular." Also, read Catch-22 if you never have. Literally the funniest goddamn book in the entire English language. It's so awesome it's probably going to get me fired because I won't stop laughing at my desk.

So, pointless blog post over. To anyone who checks this thing with any regularity, be prepared for a face-full of pretentious, analytical posturing because that's the only thing I do better than nerdrage. I'll get back on track with the publishing thing when I actually make any headway on it. Sometime within the next ten years, give or take a trip to a psych ward. And remember kids: always hang on to your dreams. Because otherwise you're just a crazy person, yammering at a brick wall by the bus stop.

Or herpes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Triumph is a dish best served luke-warm and slightly overcooked...

The unthinkable has finally happened: I have finally finished the first round of rewrites on my book. This moment would feel more triumphant if I was even remotely close to being done with any of this. I'm super not. I guess when I was a kid and dreaming of being a writer I sort of thought I would come up with a story, and write it, and then the magical book fairy would visit in the night and wave some bullshit wand which bears a striking resemblance to a red felt-tip marker and then POOF! My story would be a shiny book with pages and a spiffy cover and an evocative-yet-enigmatic title and maybe some tasteful artwor. And it would be read instantly by millions and they would all give me money and I would get interviewed on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart because that's the only show I've ever had a sincere desire to be a part of, and then the rest of my life would be all unicorns and fire dragons and hobbits and enough chocolate mousse to drown in and I could die happy or else be immortal but without all the angst. Because of magic.

When you're a kid your dreams are all about the romance and the charm of having whatever you want and reaping the rewards of all your hard labor, just with all the hard labor glossed over. No one has dreams where they slog through years of university at an institution too expensive for the quality of classes you're taking in a major you don't really need because your dream doesn't technically require a BA in anything, only to make it into the workforce and suddenly realize despite all your 300 level courses and your shiny new diploma you are completely ill-suited to any real profession and your dream hasn't actually come true yet and, oh yeah, you still need to buy food and live somewhere. No one thinks about all the effort that goes into achieving your dream, your dream is just handed to you on a gilded platter, or drops into your lap like a less-rapey magic swan. You don't sit at a desk at a soul-sucking 9-to-5 job and daydream about the hours of tedious work writing a story, reforging that story into a coherent narrative, revising that coherent narrative into a good narrative, and then reformatting the whole thing into an acceptable template for a manuscript because oh hell you don't know how to do that, either.

And that's why creative writing classes are bullshit. They spend all their time with the touchy-feely part of the process, the 'honing your craft' and 'learning from other's stylistic choices' and 'trusting your voice' or whatever. But they never teach you the actual useful stuff, the stuff about how to write a proper novel, how to structure it, how to present it and to whom and how you contact these people in the first place. Or maybe they do teach you that stuff and I just never stuck with it long enough. Seemed like I really ought to have majored in Creative Writing, only I hate other creative writers and I was too enamored of the analytical bent of the standard English major program. Whatever.

 It just gets a little disheartening when you realize all the things you had hoped for as a kid aren't necessarily impossible, I'm not that big of a cynic, but they certainly aren't as easy as I had always hoped. Even knowing how difficult finishing a story is, given I've only recently succeeded at this endeavor, I had thought that would be the hard part. It turns out every part of this process is the hard part. I don't think there is an easy part. Anywhere. But the first hurdle has been jumped (second if you consider finishing the damn story to be the first hurdle) and I have emerged from the roiling chaos of the rough draft into an equally chaotic mess of the post-rewrite universe, the triumph feeling a bit cold and anti-climactic as I know I'll have to do this all over again, and who knows how many times in total before the damn thing is actually, truly done. Oh well. I'll take what I can get.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The crawling chaos of the dreaming world

I would like to take a moment here to get back onto the apparent theme of this blog, and also I'm trying to procrastinate hard on rewrites for my book. There's a reason for that couched in terms of clouded vision, confused representation, befuddled execution and the inescapable fact that it's really hard and I don't wanna. This nascent theme, of course, being my journey of writing, rewriting, re-rewriting, crying, and eventually, hopefully, publishing a book. And how this journey is quite simply hell. It's been a bit nebulous, my account of this journey; mostly me speculating on the far-flung-future of what happens once I've been published and how frustrated I am at other people's expectations for how long this process takes. I'd like to get a bit more technical here, in the hope that anyone reading this (no one) will get a better understanding.

It is awful. Sort of. Most of the time, yes. Some days it feels like any other 9-5 day at the office, except you somehow manage to cram 8 hours of mental exhaustion into 2 and still end up feeling like you've accomplished nothing. It's like the worst kind of time-travel, minutes and hours speeding by you faster than your mind can comprehend and you're still exactly where you started. Anyone who ever thought it would be a good idea to write a book, even those people who wrote books I hate are brave and insane individuals who are worthy of respect if for no other reason than sheer dogged perseverance. That, in the end, is what it takes. Yeah, creativity and passion and the desire to make a difference are important, all well and good, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions and in the end the only thing getting you anywhere is the grim determination to sink your fingers in to the sheer rock-face of inevitable rejection and just cling.

First thing you have to realize is that your original draft of the story is probably actually crap. That brilliant idea you've stretched and nurtured into something approaching a coherent narrative? It will likely no longer exist by the time you're done. The worst timing for this realization is right about where I'm at. So very close to finishing the first round of revisions, which took me about 8 goddamn months, and realizing as I'm closing in on this imaginary deadline that my second round of revision will probably take twice as long, if not longer, because the entire story and every scrap of revision I've just completed will have to be broken down, destroyed, and built up again. While still, hopefully, remaining the same story except it won't because how could it when the very problem is my story and how, essentially, it isn't right. In fact I jut came to this realization not five minutes ago, which is why I'm writing this nonsense because the alternative is a complete cognitive meltdown in a Starbucks entirely too close to my home for people not to recognize me if I ever decided to show my face in public again.

This, of course, is only step two on the road to publication. The other steps are so shrouded in needlessly ominous explanations and allusions by people "in the know" you might as well be peering down into the all-consuming charnel-darkness of Gorgoroth, because who the hell would bother with any of this shit if they were sane? Upon Googling "How to get published" I came across a very informative bullet-point list of steps to get started which included helpful hints like:

  • Get an editor
  • Get an agent
  • Go to a writer's conference
  • Ask questions
  • Write a cover letter to a publishing house
  • Perform voodoo sacrifices to Nyarlathotep the eldritch god of insanity and your worst nightmares, because no one else will bother explaining these steps to you and your soul probably isn't worth that much anyway. 
This seems like a fairly straight-forward and comprehensive list of how to get started in the publishing game. Except that for anyone not initiated into the dark circle of cold consumerism and ego-stroking, no one actually knows how to go about achieving these steps. Get an editor. How? Get an agent. Again, how? Oh, well you have to go to a writer's conference. Great, where do I sign up? Well, you have to go to one specific to your genre of writing, and bring a completed, revised copy of your story, probably several, and sit through a bunch of panels and be one of hundreds of slavering plebeians gathering around the keynote speakers in an attempt to gain their attention and, if you are one of the lucky few, their approval., and how do I find one these conventions? Oh, they're listed at your local library. .......Where? Where in the goddamn library are they listed? Why are you like this? I get the distinct feeling you don't even know how to complete these steps, you snake-oil-peddling murderer of dreams. 

And you can just forget about the "contacting the publishing house" phase of the process being any easier to swallow. There's the letter of intent, of course, which no one will tell you how to write, which of course can be rejected out of hand before they've seen a glimpse of your actual story. If they don't immediately dismiss your letter of intent, however, it doesn't really get any simpler. Courting a major publishing house is, apparently, akin to coaxing a wild animal out of a cage. You make the first move, then immediately back off; don't make any sudden movements. You don't contact them, they will contact you, but probably not. Never ask to speak to them directly. Prolonged eye-contact makes them feel threatened. Never approach them from the left, and always with your hands open and palms up to show you're weaponless. If worse comes to worse, bear your throat and play dead. 

Of course if you do get a publishing deal, guess what you get to do then. Revise. Again. Except now, you're revising to their standards and you get an infinitesimal cut of the profits because after all, you and your book aren't making them money, it's their ad department marketing your book that's making them money.

The answer to many of these problems is getting self-published, or it would be, if not for the fact that you still need an editor to make sure your product doesn't suck, and either way you have to trust some asshole you don't know not to shit all over, alter completely, or steal your book. Copyrights, copyrights, copyrights. And without a publishing house designing your book and layout free of expense on the assumption that you will earn your costs back, self-publishing requires you to foot the bill for all of these things with even less guarantee that your final product will turn any profit. 

But since the alternative is getting a real career, I'll sign off here and go back to my impossibly infuriating story, plod through a few more pages of revision, feel inadequate, and do the same thing all over again tomorrow. And again and again and again until such a time as I'm finally published or I get run over by a bus. Whichever happens first. Because what else can I do? It's my dream; my beleaguering, burdensome, unremitting dream. Cold triumphs and warm, lingering failures. I'll take it though, and I'll bitch and whine but I'll never want it any different, because at least I'll never have to know the aimless drifting purgatory of not having a dream. 

Because that just sounds like a nightmare.