Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kinda Thrilling... have a new laptop. I got it this weekend and now must consider a career as a spy to utilize the face recognition and fingerprint identification security features.

Even if I choose to remain a writer, it's nice to not be able to make toast in the time Word takes to load.

What is Hell?

Still banging out about 1,000 to 2,000 words per day on my latest story. I've been thinking about what exactly Hell should be. For starters, it should be capitalized.

Put "Hell" into a Google image search and you're likely to come back with something like this.
Lots and lots of fire.
Is this really the best we can do?

I'm not going to be that smug jackass who pretends he's read anything by Sartre. The only thing I have to offer is that one famous quote from No Exit (had to look that up, I admit) "Hell is other people." It's a start. It's sensible. Probably all you need to make a very good Hell is to let a bunch of people loose and let them do what they would. But "other people" doesn't take it as far as it can go.

Hell is variety. An unending lake of fire is dull and is the kind of thing you're going to get used to after a while. Part of what makes pain really awful is the anticipation before your nerves start screaming. What use is pain without an end? There has to be a variety. When the imp comes to kick you in the balls next Tuesday, he'd be smart to jam his pitchfork into your knee and yank it like a lever. Not expecting that, were you?

And he's only going to visit you every so often at irregular intervals. There needs to be contrast between pain and not-pain. Because the second thing that makes a good Hell is thought. Imagine constantly anticipating that pinch. When will it happen next? Torture is bad enough. I'm not going to say that the constant expectation of it is worse, but it's absolutely a part of the mixture.

Lake of fire? No, today you're in the frigid swamps full of nasty poisonous things. Some of you will come back without eyes. Some of you didn't have eyes to begin with, because inequality is part of it. When the demons come and remove the feet of every tenth person, you'll understand why after carrying that person ten steps, or after leaving them where they are. Only one needs to suffer to make ten miserable.

On that note, this story is turning out a lot darker than when I'd originally conceived it. That's not a complaint, just an observation.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How Not to be Seen

On the heels of yesterday's rant, I just wanted to drop by with this thing here which was brought to my attention by the good folks at The Nautilus Engine. Only read if you want to learn the five steps to being totally boring and unremarkable.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Break it Down

Image captured from this here video. Possibly offensive to you.
Gonna cuss with impunity here. Deal with it or go home.

I've mentioned here before that I'm working on a story that, basically, can be summed up as "puppets in hell."

It's grown by 6,000 words in just the last two days because I am loving the hell out of it.

I've got dozens and dozens of story ideas, but god damn, half of them I don't even want to bother with. This story? I wish I was writing it right now. Not because it's going to be something amazing. Not because it'll propel me to fame and fortune, but because I'm enjoying it.

I think it took this for me to realize that I'm just not cut out for the serious literary world. I'm no writer. I'm a weird guy who happens to write. Taking everything deadly serious has thus far lead to more than a few stories withering on the vine. Listening to Randall Coots' "Toaster of the Gods" on the Drabblecast was a wake up call. People can and do listen to really weird fiction. You'll get pushed by plenty of people to write serious stuff, but why? I don't want to hear another tale of "Guy X meets girl Y in war torn Z during the Battle of AA" There's already enough fiction out there that reads like non-fiction that doing so contributes as much to the world as does one jack-off doing the wave in a crowded stadium.

Is creating fiction that mirrors the world around us really the best we can do? Jesus Fucking Christ. I guaran-goddamn-tee you that for every novel about a poor Korean girl growing up in rural Wisconsin, there really is a poor Korean girl growing up in rural Wisconsin, or someone close enough that you could just as easily have your novel by asking the adult version of her to write down what it was like to grow up there.

Boring. You want stories about gang members growing up in the projects? Look to the fucking news. You want a story about an alcoholic who survives a tremendous car crash and turns his life around? News. Again. Story about a Vietnam veteran who comes back home to protesters hurling balloons full of piss? Shit, ask your uncle.

I want things I can't find here. I want to hear about that bug from space that glows in the dark. I want to read a story where a sock puppet is kidnapped... in HELL. I want to listen to a story about a toaster that thinks its God. I think we can do better than just regurgitating the world around us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Badass Scars

Something I'm sick of seeing in any story is a character with a wicked badass scar, which is typically on their face. If the character is meant to be a rugged, roguish hero, it'll be on a cheek so that it's noticaeble enough to make them rugged but not enough to impede on their good looks. If the character is a villain, expect it to be longer, possibly the entire length of the face. Probably it'll cover one eye and there's about a 50/50 chance that that eye is some weird color.

Okay, not a badass. Evil though.
I guess that's the best position to show right away that your character is seriously bad news--it doesn't serve much of a purpose to have your ragged, war-torn character that way if clothing is obstructing the view--but, damn, haven't we had enough already. I guess it's fine for comics, such as Dr. McNinja: when you have a limited amount of text and 90% of info has to come through visuals, you have to make the maximum amount of impact in the shortest amount of space. I hate reading about it in literature though. Given that space constraints are far less in a good novel, you don't need to apply these things like badges.

It's funny how quickly you can identify the traits of a scarred character. The eye thing means they're an awesome fighter (because characters like this can typically survive and kick ass even without full use of their senses). If it's across the chest they likely survived some mortal wound that should have killed them, and likely have a survivor story. Burn scars across 50% or more of the body? Villain. Something to do with mentally linking severe burns to hell, and hell to evil, I'm guessing. On a hand, or say, a forehead, said scar is likely going to be shaped like a thing and will probably be part of a prophecy or just act as positive identification for the character. Harry Potter is probably the best recent example of this. Also the most hilarious because, frankly, his makes him seem like a complete puss. "Ow! My tiny lightning bolt-shaped scar hurts!" Jesus, man up.

 Sometimes this is awesome.
You're not going to find a lone scar across anyone's arm or leg unless it fit's that requirement. More likely is that if a character is going to be wounded on a limb, it's probably missing and has been replaced by something more awesome. If it's a fantasy setting, expect a hook, or a sword. Possibly a chainsaw if you're going more into steampunk territory. The closer you get to more modern day the more likely you're going to see a gun.

I think that should I ever choose to add a defining wound to a character's past, I'm going to make it something that hasn't been done before. Maybe a missing nose. No, better yet, just one nostril completely gone. Never seen that before.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Wow, what a lazy title on my part.

Anyway, I've been listening to the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine lately. It's great but I find the post-story segments are starting to drive me nuts. I don't want to stop listening to them but I hate just sitting around and doing nothing while listening to people talk. On the plus side I've stopped curiously clicking links o the site during those times, which is good because my browser opens up those sites in the same window and tab, meaning I lose my place. Meaning, yeah I'm not going back.

Big Anklevich has a muppety voice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quick... me someplace a demon might find string or twine in the vast wastes of hell. I'm avoiding writing my current story until I can think of a reasonable spot for it.

I typically get about the same amount of writing done every day: anywhere from 2-4 hours. But my attention span waxes and wanes. On good days, those hours will be consecutive, and the prose will have a nice flow to it. On bad days? It'll be in 15-20 minute spurts and will feel choppy and sort of clumsy when I go back and read whatever it was I was working on.

The computer is the best and worst possible writing tool. With internet access I can quickly research a topic for a story. On the other hand, it also leads to a lot of meaningless tooling around. I'm actually in the market for a new writing laptop because my current one is getting very old. It was not top-of-the-line when I got it. In fact, it was a clearance model. Six years ago. As if it wasn't slow enough, putting Norton antivirus on it pretty much slowed it to a crawl. An 11-year old copy of MS word should not take more than a split second to open. It often takes this poor old man about ten. That's just word. More intensive programs are a nightmare. A few friends and acquaintances have really plain-looking blogs I can't access from this thing because everything will freeze up.

And yet it almost seems like a blessing in disguise. Would I do even less if I had a computer that was up to date? Or would I get less frustrated at having to restart it (and thereby spend more time with it) because something it can't cope with is hogging a ton of resources? Guess I'm about to find it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Technology! Innovation and Industry!

I sent my latest story to an online mag known as The Nautilus Engine, and I was surprised to find that it was not going onto their website, but their Facebook feed linked above. I'm torn on this one. On the off chance the NE people are reading, I'm still grateful for the opportunity to show some of my work, and I like the market well enough.

On the one hand, it's interesting to see how the world around us moves forward and change with trends and how old things can be changed with new technology. The age of print is withering and giving rise to things like online publications and e-readers and so forth. There's no denying that and there's no helping it. Aside from two college publications (and another story that will be coming out next year) every last story I've written has been, or will be, published online.

But is Facebook is the right medium for fiction? On the one hand, Facebook is an enormously powerful social media site right now and offers a lot of opportunity for exposure. One the other hand it worries me to see something I've written slowly slinking its way down the page. There's a real sense of impermanence to it. Whereas something on a website somewhere seems a little more solid, having a url that feels like a private space.

I think there's just a bit of paranoia in the sense that, on Facebook, posts get older and older and slowly sink to the bottom of the page. It feels like they're becoming less and less relevant. This is true of any work, of course, but the visual reminders are less subtle. It'll be interesting to see how a market like this turns out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Got Nothing

Just submitted a short story to The Nautilus Engine, who formerly published a story of mine by the name of "Moon Dog". Still debating on whether or not it was a smart move to send in a second story with an unemployed guy who has a strange animal companion. Either this is the kind of thing they'd expect, or it's too much. Then again, "Moon Dog" was put out in 2009. I'm probably safe.

I've had a little trouble with this story. The title, specifically. It's gone through three changes and I'm still not 100% satisfied with it. It's hard coming up with a decent name for a really odd story. Too odd and it turns people off: you don't want a story by the name of "Monkeycheesepants" for instance, because even hardened weirdos will cringe at that. Then again, something simple like "Andy Goes to The Store" is so dull and dry that nobody will get the message that you're writing for an odd audience. An oddience, if you will.

Well, that brings the number of subs I have out at the moment to seven. I've been trying to keep it steady at ten. Gonna have to go get to work.