Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam hangs

I firmly believe Saddam Hussein was an evil man. I am for use of the death penalty (not in all cases, but generally when the person to be executed remains a danger to others). I think the world is better off without Saddam. I think the U.S. is better off without Saddam. Iraq too.

But ... I don't feel any safer. And something bugs me about his execution. I'm not sure what it is ... perhaps the way it was handled, all of a sudden in the middle of the night (though early morning in Baghdad).

It didn't quite seem fair to me. It didn't seem just. A quicky appeals trial, then slam bam and he's hanging from a noose.

I often think U.S. appeals courts take way too much time when dealing with murder cases, but the speed of Saddam's execution has shocked me, I suppose..

I just don't know. Something about Saddam's death didn't feel right.

Can anyone explain this to me? Then I'll go back to writing about writing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

Just wanted to let folks know that if I'm not posting much here for a while it's because I'm busy. I'm still working my old job, looking for a new job and moving two hours away in a town where I've bought a house but still don't have a job. All the while I'm still trying to edit the third book of my trilogy.

Call me Stupid.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

As I'm going to be on the road for the holidays, and away from a computer, I wanted to wish everyone who checks this blog a happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

May all your writing dreams become realities in the new year of 2007!

Friday, December 22, 2006

So, I'm royalty

Figure I had to get in on this one too.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Earl Ty the Appropriate of Deepest Throcking
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

And for Kron Darkbow ...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Viscount Kron the Bovine of Snotting on Wold
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Monday, December 18, 2006

Writing methods

There are various ways for a writer to work. I'll mention a few below, and my opinions of them, but keep in mind I'm only talking about the actual writing process. Editing and other work can be for another post.

Longhand method: Some writers write their stories out by hand, usually in a notebook or pad of sorts. Then, when finished, they proceed to type the work into a computer or on a typewriter, or they have someone else type it for them. I've tried this method a few times, but my hand tires too much, and I can't write fast enough to keep up with my brain. One of the great things about this method of writing is the cost: A pad and a few pencils cost only a few dollars, though finding a typewriter or typist might run you some more bucks.

Recording: Some authors actually carry around a recording device of some kind, and they record their own voice as they "speak" the story. Then, later, they type the story up or have someone else type it. I've tried this method only once or twice, and I found it laborious. I'll skip it, thanks.

Typewriter: This is a more traditional method, where one types their story straight onto a page with a typewriter. There are some drawbacks to this, mainly having to deal with mistakes while typing. This method is nearly forgotten nowadays, as the typewriter has been replaced by computers.

Word processing: This is probably the most common manner for writers to write today. They type their stories directly into word processing software on their computer. This method allows for easy editing and revision, and saves your story in a file without taking up the space a bulky manuscript would. The main drawback to this method of writing is the cost; computers, paper and ink cartridges can be expensive. Still, this is the method of writing I normally use.

There probably are a few other writing methods I've forgotten, or I'm not as familiar with (stone tablets and a chisel come to mind), but feel free to let me know of something different than I've mentioned.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The typewriter

Ever miss the days of the typewriter? Every so often I do.

Yes, the benefits from writing with word processing software on a computer are enormous, but typewriters had a few benefits. For one, once you had typed out the work, it was already there for you; no sitting around for hours while waiting for a proof of your 300+ page novel to print out for editing or mailing (which is what I'm doing while writing this).

But more than that, I kind of miss the mechanics of writing with a typewriter. My first typewriter was some foreign brand, a portable manual that was quite dodgy mechanically, but I loved it. My mom got my second typewriter for me in high school; it was a fancy electric Smith Corona that even had an erase key on it that would allow me to go back and automatically white-out a bad keystroke. Boy, I thought that was big time!

Then, at the age of 18 I entered college, and that's when I discovered Macintoshes. These newfangled computers were far and away better than the Vic 20 and Commodore 64 computers I was familiar with from high school. Since then, I've never looked back and I've never owned another typewriter. My (now old) Smith Corona sits unused in my mom's house five hundred miles a day.

Ah, nostaliga.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

This is not a review

Okay, I'm reading "The Da Vinci Code." I'm a little more than halfway through it. Yes, I've seen the movie. So why read the book?

Simple, to see how and why Dan Brown's novel has become so popular.

The plot is fairly generic, though has a fast pace to keep interest up. The main character is different, thus interesting, but most of the other characters aren't anything special. The writing is okay, not great but not awful, reminding me a little of Michael Crichton's work in the last 20 or so years. It almost reads like a screenplay, with a little exposition thrown in from time to time to explain the more complicated elements of the story.

True, I'm not finished with the book, but since I've seen the movie I know how the story works out. As far as I can tell, the novel is so popular because of its background material, most of which is quite explosive from a religio-political point of view.

However, none of that background information is anything new, nothing I hadn't read years ago. Apparantly, though, it was new to the public at large.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, I spent years and years reading occult material, fiction and non-fiction that touched upon or was fully engulfed by "secret history," "lost books" and unique individuals and the like. I wanted to be a horror writer then, so it made sense to study all that stuff. I spent lots of time reading about the history of vampirism, cults, witchcraft, Le Comte de St. Germain, the Rosicrucians and thousands of other subjects that are truly useless to know about ... unless one is writing about occult matters.

So, "The Da Vinci Code" held no surprises for me.

It's just a halfway decent book that likely would never have been a best seller if its opponents had kept their mouths shut.

Wow. Eureka. Sorry, I've got to go. I think my next novel is going to be about a conspiracy by a U.S. president to start a war for no other reason than to make his buddies rich. THAT should be controversial enough to get me published.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ideas from music

A question writers often hear is "Where do you get your ideas?" This is such a common question that many authors moan about hearing it. The simple answer is: Our ideas come from our imagination. We allow our minds to wander, to ask questions, to put together things that normally wouldn't be put together.

Another simple answer, for me, is music, specifically pop or rock music.

I have next to no musical talent. I can't read music very well (though I can kind of figure it out on a guitar or keyboard). I can only play about two strings on a guitar. And I can find the center of a piano keyboard and thump my fingers around a little. I've also been known to smack some sticks on a drum a little.

But really, I have no musical talent. Lucky for me, I also have no musical ambition.

However, I do have big interests in music, emotionally and nostalgically. I also often get story ideas while riding down the road listening to a tune. The music itself often puts me into one mood or another, many of those moods being good emotionally for my writing, but I also love great lyrics. Often, the lyrics combined with the right sounds will give me ideas for a short story or two that rumble around in my head.

I'll offer a couple of vague examples (vague because I don't want to give away any story ideas):

"Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. I'm guessing I'm the only writer to listen to Simon and Garfunkel and get an idea for a horror story. The first words to the song are "Hello, darkness ..." That alone is enough to get my mind working.

"The River" by Bruce Springsteen. "The River" is basically a story in itself, a sad tale of one man and his lost dreams, though you're never really sure what those dreams exactly were. For some reason, this song always puts me in mind of some hard-boiled action, possibly a protagonist with lost dreams and he's found a rough-and-tumble way to find those dreams again. Usually, a gun is involved.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Being well read

Even if you are focusing your writing career on only one genre, you need to be well read in other areas. For example, most of my fiction writing experience is in fantasy and horror (with a once-in-a-blue-moon lapse into sci-fi or mainstream literary), but I try to be well read in other areas. Why? Not only because it helps me to be a more well-rounded writer, but it can help me find story ideas. Here are some thoughts:

1.) Best sellers: Yes, I've read "Bridges of Madison County. I'm currently reading "The Da Vinci Code." I often shy away from books that seemingly come out of nowhere to suddenly be huge hits, but I feel I have to read some of them just to remain aware of what's selling. It's good marketing sense. I discovered Harry Potter for this reason (and because my friend Becky wanted me to read the Potter books so she would have someone with whom to talk about the books), and I've enjoyed the Potter books. I also discovered Tom Clancy and Anne Rice for the same reasons, but this was back in the 1980s. Stephen King too. Even if a big seller isn't quite your cup of tea, you can learn a lot from one of them.

2.) Classical literature: Many classics of the written word are simply that, classics, great literature that will make you a better person just by reading them and thinking about their story, message, plot, themes, etc. Classics might not help you much with current marketing, but they can show you what's already been done, so you won't repeat it (and look foolish to your editor, publisher and readers). Also, by studying good literature, it can help you become a better writer.

3.) Ancient literature: Much the same as classic literature, but going back hundreds and thousands of years. The ancient Greeks had tons of stories that would make great novels today, with some updating, of course. The same could be said for the Icelandic sagas, or ancient Roman writings, even the Bible and Koran.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Zombie attack!

I had to post this one.

Will you survive the zombies?
Your Result: Coward

You hid long enough for the zombies to moan a little while (actually a long while) and for the army to march in and wipe em out. Now you can get together with the other survivors, probably not as many due to the fact that you didnt save any, and discuss the future for your little destroyed city.

The Survivor
Zombie food
Will you survive the zombies?
Make Your Own Quiz

I also know 80s rock music

Ultimate '80's Rock quiz
Your Result: YOU ROCK!!

you definately know your '80's rock!
Eddie Van Halen would be proud. Go out, buy your first real six-string and play it 'till your fingers bleed. if that's not your thing then go put on a good rock tune and play air guitar until someone makes fun of you, at that point tell them to go screw themselves and get ready for the guitar solo!!!

Ultimate '80's Rock quiz
Create Your Own Quiz

If you don't like my little quizzes, go away. It's my blog and I'll do what I want to.

Holy crap! I'm a druid!

I can't believe out of all the D&D classes that I'm a crappy druid. This sucks.

What D&D Class are you
Your Result: Druid

You spend most of your time in solitude in the woods. You don't really care about those around you only yourself. If it doesn't affect you then it's not your concern. But once it affects you, now that is a different story. You will purge your enemies if they dare mess with you.

What D&D Class are you
Create MySpace Quizzes

What kind of reader are you?

Here's how I scored.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

How about you?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Know your basics

A good number of writers, or wannabe writers, seem to think they can get by without knowing things like ... oh, like grammar, or spelling, or formatting. Some seem to think editors will take care of all this for them.

It's not true. You have to know these things. You don't have to be Shakespeare, but you need to be a decent speller and to at least learn the basics of grammar. You also need to pay attention to formatting your stories.

First, why do you need to know this stuff. Simple: Because if you don't, then you will never be published. Editors receive hundreds or thousands of stories or books a month; often they are looking for reasons to NOT publish your story. Don't give them any solid reasons. Keep your work professional, and they will treat you as a professional. And you will eventually be published.

Second, how do you learn grammar and spelling and formatting. I'm guessing if you are interested in being a writer, you likely already know the basics from school. But even if you don't, you can still learn. Go to your local library or book store, then head to the reference section. There should be some books on grammar and spelling. I know there will be a number of books on how to get published, and most of them will have a section on formatting.

Here's some tips from me:
1.) Always keep a dictionary and thesaurus next to your writing space. A little book on basic grammar and punctuation couldn't hurt either. Whenever you are unsure about something, turn to these books.
2.) Don't trust spellcheck in your writing software. Use it, but don't trust it. There's a lot spellcheck won't catch.
3.) Edit, edit and edit. Then edit some more. Read over your own material until you're bored to tears with it. Find mistakes, fix them, then keep looking for more.
4.) Have others read your work. This is important. A while back I was making pdf files of my first novel and to do so I had to switch between a couple of different softwares also while switching my files from Mac to PC formats; for some reason, some of my punctuation went missing. Friends of mine caught this. Thank goodness.

I'm sure there are other things I could add, but I'll keep it short.

Also, I know I'm not perfect, so I don't mean to come off as a know-it-all. I make mistakes with my grammar and spelling too. I just keep working at it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Boring myself

Found out something new recently ... After spending almost two years of working on a project, and after writing and editing and re-reading my first novel at least six times ... I am bored to tears with the first book.

I will be so glad when I'm finished with this final edit and I can get back to working on the second or third back. Yes, I'm boring myself.

But I still like zombies. Everybody should have one.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Zombies and more

VonDarkmoor asked about zombies and my appreciation of the social messages from zombie movies, so I thought I'd expound here a little. A warning: there will be some minor SPOILERS below for some zombie movies.

But first, I want to mention something ... earlier I wrote I didn't like the "Saw" movies because there isn't a plot, or at least not much of one. Then it dawned on me that many people might say the same about the "Friday the 13th" movies I was raised on. I thought, "Oh, how hypocritical of me." Then I realized I had never really cared much for the "Friday the 13th" movies anyway. So I'm not a hypocrite. The only teen slasher movie I really like is John Carpenter's Halloween (unless you count "Psycho," and I don't because it's not a teen slasher flick IMO).

Now, on to zombies. Someone (I don't know who) has recently labeled "zombies the new vampire." And I agree with that. What is always most interesting about vampires, and more recently zombies, is not how different they are from humans, but how SIMILAR they are to humans.

Zombie movies are admittedly cheap, gory feasts on film. I don't care for the gore, which is one reason I tend to prefer zombie fiction over zombie movies (hey, at least I don't have to SEE the intestines being eaten). But zombie movies also have a message, sometimes more than one message, about humanity. The most simple of messages is this: WE are zombies, eating ourselves, destroying ourselves and killing ourselves. It doesn't get much more simple than that. It's pretty dark, but it's also a fairly basic way to look at life (one I at least partly agree with -- humans just love to kill humans, physically and socially and economically, etc. etc.).

To go a little more indepth, consider quite possibly the most famous zombie movie of all time, "Night of the Living Dead." There were a few other zombie movies before this 1968 classic film from George Romero, but this is the one that really began the franchise. Most notably, the hero of this movie is a black male. No big deal today, but in 1968 it was a huge deal. To go further, the black hero (played by Duane Jones) survives battle after battle with the living dead, then is mistaken for a zombie himself and shot dead by a group of white men at the end of the film. If there's not message about race in this story, I think anyone would have to admit at the least there are race-related overtones. (P.S. Don't bother with the lousy 1990 remake of the movie -- it's no good).

Zombie movie are also notorious for attacking capitalism and consumerism. Don't believe me? Come on. Both versions of "Dawn of the Dead" take place in malls. You can't get much more anti-consumerism than undead baddies shuffling through the Gap while ripping apart the latest line from Tommy Hilfiger.

Then there's "Day of the Dead," my least favorite of Romero's zombie flicks, but still with its worthwhile aspects. The movie takes on the hubris of science and the military, while also taking a look at gun violence.

So far I've only talked about George Romero's classic three movies, but there are plenty more zombie movies, and some of them by Romero himself. I don't want to take up a ton more space here, so I won't talk about those other movies other than to say some are good, some are great and some are complete and utter dreck.

Now, on to literature. There's not a ton of zombie fiction, though the list is growing. I want to mention my two favorites.

1.) "Book of the Dead" is a 1989 anthology of short stories edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter. Stephen King has a short story here, as does Steve Boyett, a forgotten fantasy writer who I've always liked. This is my all-time favorite anthology. The stories are fantastic. If you can find this used paperback, and you don't mind blood in your fiction, pick this one up.

2.) "World War Z," by Max Brooks. This is a new piece of fiction. I hesitate to call it a novel, because while fiction, it isn't a traditional novel. It's a collection of interviews with people ten years after World War Z, the war against the zombies. While partly written tongue-in-cheek, this book is eeiry in its realism. It reads real. It sounds real. In some ways I find that scarier than gore. On the downside, the book tends to drag a bit after you've read interview after interview, but it's all interesting.

Enough on zombies for now. I'm even boring myself.