Friday, May 31, 2013

The Norway Report!

The Fjord Coast in Solvorn
So in case you were wondering I went to Norway this past week and a half. It was crazy getting the blog posts to come through! Nevertheless I was faithful to my mission to teach you all that there is to been seen there. At the moment I am uploading Facebook photos. That's what one must do in these moments right?

Detail from the Urnes Stave Church
Norway Is a special place, and I was deeply fortunate enough to make contact with bona fide Norwegians. The culture there is remarkable, which is a grave understatement. I was simply blown away by their graciousness, helpfulness, and general awareness for charity on the common man. IF I wasn't a socialist then, I am now, but I resign in despair that American culture will never be mature enough to do what the Norwegians have done, and continue to do in their country. They actively offer asylum to oppressed people groups, integrate them through a rigorous program that guarantees them equal footing with other immigrants, ensuring them that they understand the language and parent culture of their adoptive nation. And they PAY them to do this. It's incredible. When I asked a young Norwegian man about how the citizens of the country feel about socialism he said in essence, "The people of Norway give a little into the pot understanding that people can take out of it what they need in times of struggle, but not too much to cheat the system. Some are wary of giving to the immigrants because they fear that they will abuse the system, but even young people are at risk for that."

Mount Molden
I took time to ask them about their reaction to the tragic attacks on their country back in July of 2011 to see what their emotions were in light of something that happened to us on the scale of the 2001 September 11th attacks. I was told that the immediate reaction was fear, then encouragement, followed ultimately by a stance of forgiveness and reconciliation. There was no cry for blood, but for justice. Apparently a debate has broken out over the use of funds to keep Anders Breivik alive (for if they put him in a real jail he would immediately be murdered by fellow inmates). The concern is legitimate, but no action has been taken on whether or not he will be executed or released after his 21 year prison sentence is up. I was astonished by the response though. I can't say that I would have been able to articulate that reaction had I been hurt personally by the attacks, but I can say that I admire the Norwegian people for their tenacity to try.  

Apple Orchards Are Common Here
When I personally visited the country I was on a mission to understand the quality of the christian church of Norway. Even though the church has officially renounced it's state status in Norway, the church there is still strong. Even if you aren't religious, one has to admire the clarity and commitment of these people. Sectarian rivalry is nonexistent there, or at least so marginal that it was hardly salient. Because Christianity is not valued there as a symbol of status or hierarchy, there is no need to lord it over people who share dissimilar worldviews. They simply just are Christian. Their state socialist system reflects that in that they give to their fellow brothers and sisters in nationality with the expectation of the money going to help them, with the understanding that there are always people willing to take advantage of the system. But it doesn't bother them, mostly.
The Best Day We Had in Solvorn

People are willing to share the land, even though popular movies (Troll Hunter) and television shows (Lilyhammer) point out some of the glaring inconsistencies that occasionally arise. There's no such thing as a perfect country, but one that is willing to afford any citizen the right of free passage anywhere in the country for backpacking purposes dramatically contrasts with the abject selfishness of American culture and the propensity to grab a hold of the land and declare, "It's mine." I could write so much about this, but there is not enough time or energy on my part to convey it.  

All and all the trip was informative. I enjoyed myself very much, and pray for an opportunity to someday return and see more of this extraordinarily expensive, though rewarding, country. Until then all I can say is that I miss the North already.

We shall meet again.


Urnes From Afar

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Rod and The Mackerel - Part 3

I knew secrets, all kinds of them. I knew why Mr. Connelly ate slowly at the harvest festivals, and Mrs. Hyde's baking was no mystery to me either. Why the paper flickered in his hands and trembled was something peculiar to me. The old man snatched the paper out of my hand as if it was no different than any other and snapped it upright and began to do the word puzzle.

"Alright," I moaned, "I give up."

"Better for you that you did," the man agreed.

Lifting two hands he clapped them together, and pulled them apart in a fine web of small lights that dazzled in the air. I barely noticed him dim the light of the sun. I didn't blame him for that though. He was very good at keeping my attention.

"I wager you a more visual learner," he began, ably manipulating the web of lights until they took the form of the stars. "So am I come to think about it…"

"What power is this then, if it be not magic?"

He man got up and paced the earth, looking ahead of me. His charm eroded into uncertainty. He too seemed to not have any idea of the origin of his powers. He curtly waved his hand across the sky and behind it the whole world disappeared into darkness.

"The men before us, whoever they were, had great power. They could do many things with it." Out of the floor of the darkness a nude buxom woman emerged, her skin glowing faintly.

"This power was not for them, I don't think. It was their doom, swallowed by false desires." With a wave the woman faded away, smiling as she did.

"And you are here? That's curious..."  I watched him shake his head with bitterness.

"Me? I just want to fish." He paused, gesturing toward the rod. It was the only object in the room other than him that was real. "I just want some peace and quiet, that's all."

"Where do the fish come from? A man cannot eat a fish that is not real."

"Aye," the man replied sadly. "Madness nearly took me you know? I caught fish so big that I swore up and down that they were nothing but the product of  hot vapors rising from my blistered mind. Nay, they were real. I found this out when I left one day. That time I caught the biggest fish I had ever seen. “So damn them all” I thought. “I'm taking this home, and none of you are going to stop me!” Sure enough I did, and bless me! It was real as any other fish."

"I wonder where they come from." I thought aloud, stepping closer to the water's edge. There they were, swimming below the surface, thousands of them.

"Long before our fathers, and theirs before, they farmed the little bastards I wager. Bloody brilliant, if I may say so."

I nodded absently, watching the fish swim blithely through the pool. They appeared so content, completely unaware of their predator. It must have been nice before the old man had arrived for them.

"So then I must keep this between us?" I asked, looking up at him. A thin, wrinkly smile emerged onto his face.

"Aye, between the two of us… As long as there’s no more of this magic talk. The world is very real, you know."

It was. I packed up my things and pondered the words the old man told me. In fact when I left I felt rather disturbed by the notion. Gradually things appeared to me as less than what they once were. They were robbed of their inner light. It was a cost that I weighed. I no longer desired to be trained in the secret arts, and for that I was ostracized. I only desired to fish with the old man and further discover the secrets of his mutable world. Before he passed, he told me the secret of how to get to the inner chamber, how to protect it, among other things.

I still go there today. I wonder how the place came to be there, how it functions. I took this to be a mystery, one that I could dwell in. Someday the truth will occur to me, but until then I am satisfied with my ignorance. Too much knowledge robs a man of his purpose. He must find his own way I think. Only then is he truly happy with what he finds.

The End.


Monday, May 27, 2013

On Diversification: How to Write Reviews

Diversification is the key to being a well rounded writer. This is probably not surprising. In order to have a good grasp of any skill there must be dabbling involved. In music, for example, one must learn the blues, classical music, and jazz to truly understand the mechanics of the art. Quibbles aside, music is an art the draws on multifaceted methodology. All roads lead to Rome, but some are taken for reasons more important than others. The same is in writing.

Therefore, today I will teach you how to review. Because I am writing this now halfway around the world I will take the opportunity to review Eplet Bed and Apple, the place that my wife and I have stayed up to this point.

Reviews are not exactly executed with hard expectations and parameters but they always begin with a broad overview. Because I am reviewing a hospitality establishment I will say that Eplet is family owned and operated by Agnethe and Trond Henrik in Solvorn, Norway. It is a very small town with not much to do. Don't expect clubbing every night. This is a place to go to escape and leave one's identity far behind. There is no atmosphere of tourism or kitschy gimmicks and stands peddling souvenirs. if there are, they are vended to support establishments because they are non-profits.

After the introduction it is important to describe the quality of service, available amenities, and what is close by. People focus primarily on what may feed their exotic expectations of he region. No one is interested in your host’s uncanny abilities to maintain their international thimble collection. Eplet is located near a large settlement of three and a half thousand people where there are restaurants and things that cost an extraordinary amount of money. This is actually a good thing however, because there are so many things to do around Eplet besides buying overpriced H&M clothing from the local mall. Solvorn is located on the Lustrafjorden, the innermost  region of the Sognefjorden. The latter is the largest in the world. One can easily bike the entire Lustrafjorden leaving from Solvorn via ferry to the Urnes Farm and taking he roundtrip through Kroken, Skjolden, Lustra, and Gaupne. Its 75km, but one would be a fool not to do it. There are no such sights to behold that are greater than the Mighty Lustrafjord. Everywhere there are waterfalls in the spring, roaring in the distance. Above the sheer rock face no more than 300 meters from Eplet is the end of Mount Molden. It is a challenging though fair trek to the top. Eplet will lend bikes to all their guests for free, which are regularly maintained and serviced.

Across from Solvorn, is the Urnes Stave church. It is then oldest in Europe, dating to 1129AD. After taking the affordable tour, make certain to walk around all the roads in the immediate area. There are at least half a dozen posts with additional information shedding light on the region, and it is always a small victory when locating one. Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in continental Europe is in close proximity to Solvorn and tours are offered at least every Friday. One can either finagle with local, and affordable, public transit or take a private car. Chances are you will be able to find a ride there with the many folks that come to stay at Eplet and go on the same day. Trond details the rest of the available activities in detail on his incredibly informative website that he updates every year with relative information. Every guest receives one free bottle of Eplet apple juice complimentary with their rooms and it is so tasty and marvelous that the 25 NOK price tag soon diminishes into a sundry expense.

It is very tempting to gush or hate the place that is under scrutiny. The cold reality of life is that no place is perfect. There are pros and cons to any place no matter how wonderful. Eplet is affordable, an extreme, uncanny bargain. It is a place to be hoarded and kept away from others because of its precious nature. Because it is a hostel the reality is that Eplet is constantly in flux. One must share living spaces with a multitude of unique individuals, some agreeable, some not. There will be the inevitable conga line to the kitchen to prepare dinner in the main house. Dishes must be hand washed expediently and not heaped into piles. The rooms are charming, yet plain. It is nothing to mourn however considering that you will only be spending little time in them. Bathrooms must be shared. On the other hand, Eplet boasts a level of comfort and security unheard of in most hostels. Trond kindly supplies towels and kitchenware to use and all the doors have locks that are heavy and secure. The beds are exceedingly comfortable, warming but not cumbersome or hot.

Ultimately in the article reviewing process a commitment must be met where the variables are weighed and judged upon. reviews are not by any means comprehensive, but they must feel full and complete. Eplet therefore can be summed as so: For 550NOK per night for a double room, there is no place in Europe that boasts the comfort, affordability, and charm offered by Trond and Agnethe. The beauty of the fjords available from every room, relatively inexpensive access to local groceries, and the plethora of nature activities far outweigh any qualms to be had. Traveling is never simple, but Eplet makes it about as easy as it can be.


(Always remember to grade the establishment based on a particular rubric. People love that stuff!)


Friday, May 24, 2013

My Time In Norway (Featuring Special Guests)

By the time you read this I will be in Norway. My sole desire is to post pictures regularly to the blog, chronicling my pilgrimage to the Caucasian holy lands, but for safe measure I am putting this up to assuage your troubled minds.

I am here! Cognizant and present like a madman conceiving his corporeal reality!

I will say this though...

I loved the new Star Trek film.

Generally when old franchises are resurrected from the stygian necropoli of Hollywood film vaults, I am in a state of flux between optimism and pessimism. It was my hopes that the Transformers films would cater to the older flavor of the television program, yet in doing so I realized how shallow the plot of the series actually was. These permeating auras of mediocrity could only be amplified by Michael Bay's ghostly subtlety in promising action meth and delivering shavings of battery corrosion.

I found Star Trek: Into Darkness rather refreshing though. There were so many throwbacks that I wish I brought my glove to catch all the zingers I caught in the darkness of the theater. This is where I ought to mention that the following notes are spoilers, but before I blab I will strategically speak on my familiarity of the franchise.

I started out a Trekkie in my youth. My father owned the anthology of films that spanned the late 70s and early 80s. I watched all of them, hungry for the elderly men that would entertain me and make me believe in modern utopianism. I have watched Star Trek: First Contact so many times that I can quote it line for line. I prefer Shatner's crew over Stewart's but I love the leadership Jean-Luc Picard employs. He is always so certain of what he does, yet can remain skeptical of human nature. It's pretty fascinating actually.  But then Star Wars came and the rest is history. Light Sabers and dualism win, every time.

As I was saying about spoilers...

The new Star Trek completely surprised me. I had expected Khan, though kept my  mind open to other new inventions of Abrams's wit, but I was completely blindsided by the parallel accounts of the Wrath of Khan and Into Darkness. Spock screaming "KHAN!" after Kirk's heroic death behind a wall of glass was glorious. Introduction of experimental photo torpedoes? Marvelous! It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I would even wager it better than the first. Why? It's a remake with quips and puns that give kudos to the original material. That alone redeems it.

I hope I can supply you all with pictures of my travels. Let us pray for victory!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rod and the Mackerel - Part 2

Calm brown eyes stared back at me, sunken into the old leathery skin surrounding them. I was on my back with a terrible headache. He was proud of surprising me, a blithe old man with the iron focus of a stalemated soldier. Reaching his gnarled hand forwards he grabbed hold of my hand and propped me up, patting the dust off my shoulders.

Hell of a spill you took,” he said glancing at his rod, still propped up in the crevasse. “Very fortunate... very much indeed...”

I looked at him. Smiling back at me without pretension, I had no reason to fear him. Something stirred in me defiantly. Stories of shadowy figures and trickery loomed in my mind and, for a moment, I wondered if he would eat me.

What's on your mind, lad?” He said incredulously, leaning back, “Think me a demon do you? There are worse things to be.”

I shook my head immediately, looking around. I had undoubtedly slept, yet the sun still loomed overhead as if not a moment had passed in my unconsciousness.

What magic is this?” I could not pry my eyes from the orb above. Certainly the man knew what I meant because he scoffed louder than anyone I had ever met.

Humbug... you lads and your magics. Stuck in the past that's what. Not a man in the world that takes to sophistication, reason...”

He stood up completely, shielding the sun from my eyes, looked me hard and walked back to his pole, taking a seat near the waters with his paper. A small voice declared to me that it was proper for me to go, yet I lingered, curiously focusing on the man. He wanted me to go, tail between my legs, run off, run far away. So I arose as well, edging myself towards him curiously.

Reaching out his hand the man beckoned me near, hanging his head low in a sigh. In the same breath a chair materialized out of the air, and I gasped in awe of it. I knew him always to be a warlock, and my heart leaped for joy. To learn the arts at such a young age was a privilege. I was never offered it – that was my luck – but an initiation? I could scarcely believe it.

So you are a mage?” I said, feeling the raw leather hide embossed on the armrests, “Or perhaps a wizard? Are you the only one in the region?”

Humph! Wizards and mages,” he spouted indignantly, “Is that what he thinks? Stuff and nonsense! You have the soulful naivete of an idiot child. Thinking me a magician...” His voice trailed away into incoherency.

Well,” I said, feeling rather hurt by his rudeness, “then what am I to make you to be?” Setting down his paper he looked me hard once more, irritated, inconvenienced.

A lucky bastard and fool of chance,” he barked. “Now can a man fish in silence?”

Some moments passed then. I felt rather peculiar, incapable of leaving until the curious man divulged his secrets. After an hour the paper was finished. Folding it primly into a thin rectangle, he set it down and nudged it towards my hand. Assuming he desired to entertain me I reached out for it, but my hands drifted through it like it was made of mist. Dumbfounded I looked at him. He was grinning like a mad man.

Are you privy to new secrets boy?”

Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting to "Why" and What to Do With It

It is possible that a story have a richly crafted conceptual universe, but ultimately suffer from a lack of direction. These stories aimlessly present to the reader sprawling worlds filled with wonder and yet are populated by wholly unremarkable people. How is this possible?

In every story, the author endeavors to have you, the reader, care about their work. In an effort to capture attention, the worlds are made into sparkling gems and beautiful things and little thought is given to plot. Some of you might say, "but the author stereotype is often a heartfelt individual with a touching story about struggle and adversity." The author brings in his emotions that temper the story and make it real. This is very true, but what I am getting at is much deeper than that. I'm talking about getting to "why" and why that is different.

If I say I am writing a book about a lonely toy maker, the first instinct is to want to know why the protagonist is so depressed. That is a good first start. So, in an effort to give the toy maker dimension and weight you say that he once had a son, but he died of influenza at the turn of the century. Therefore you end up with this: The toy maker is lonely because he misses his son. While this is a very believable premise this is actually not a story. Where the story is taken from here is the beginning of the story, but many don't recognize this fact.

For the last few months I've been writing a graphic novel. It has thus far been a tremendously laboring process because I have still not articulated fully my answer to "why." The plot is very simple, but why should the reader care? Why should the character be invested? I asked these questions and couldn't find an appropriate answer until recently. (It simply can't be abstracted immediately, but takes time to discern on your own.) In our toy maker example we have a character who is lonely because of a past occurrence. This will determine how the character is conveyed in the story but consider the fact that this is just a surface level detail to a deeper unresolved issue. Why we care about the lonely toy maker, is that he has always wanted someone to share companionship with. This desire is the foundation and the "why" of the character. One day a man knocks on the lonely toy maker's door and tells him that his nephew has been released from jail in a distant land and now he must go to find him and take him home as his new caretaker. Why, again, should the reader care about the toy maker? His deepest desire is for companionship, and he will risk safety and comfort to secure it for himself and his nephew. What will happen on his journey will revolve around this basic need and desire, thereby fulfilling the answer to "why" and offering the story with a deeper level of depth.

I think this is lost on a lot of newer books and stories coming out these days. Many plots today are reactionary. Consider Harry Potter for instance. This is a story about a boy who's parents are killed by an evil wizard. He grows up, discovers himself, but that's really it. If Voldemort never arrived the entire story would be about Harry going to boarding school and then settling down to get a job in a middle class community for the rest of his life. The plot and everything that sums up his character is completely reactionary. Books today seem like rides at Disneyland: we are strapped into this rail guided thrill, only to realize that if we look not two inches behind the stucco exterior of the ride the entire illusion crumbles. Harry Potter isn't even a simple revenge story. He reacts to what is put in front of him in a very binary way. Good or Bad, it's always a 50/50 decision with no grey area.


Ask this question. Get to the deeper meaning of your stories. Give the world something more than just a cheap thrill. It is so much harder to find out how to do this, but when discovered it is all worth it.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Off To Norge!

It seems so surreal, but the moment has finally arrived for me to leave and go to the Fedreland (Fatherland). Our itinerary has burned its shape into my retinas, and all I see are afterimages of jet lag and bus rides, but it will be worth it!

We are going to a small village northeast of Sogndal, the largest settlement of note above Bergen. "Large" is relative. To them that's around three thousand. We will be staying in Solvorn, which has a small population of about 200 people. The village is ancient, and older than the United States. I love Europe for that. Its very existence teaches us that Americans shouldn't take themselves very seriously when out there, in the big world, there are small towns with more stability than nations.

It overlooks the Lustrafjorden, which is an offshoot of the Sognefjord, the largest glacier-carved inlet in the world. The prefix "Lustra-" is a derivative of Old Norse "Lústr" which means "light."
"Lys" is Norwegian for "light" and is combined with other prefixes to make words like "flashlight" and "candle" (lommelykt og stearinlys). Across from the town of Solvorn is a stave church on the Ornes farmstead. That is the Urnes Stave Church, built in 1129-30, the oldest of its kind in Europe. They know exactly how old it is because of the core samples they did on the wood. They can even pinpoint what time of year the tree was cut down. How is it that buildings we made at the turn of the century are crumbling to pieces and this building has outlived them ten fold, in the snow no less?

Above Solvorn is the Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in continental Europe. It is a tremendous thing that we will have the privilege of trotting over. Lucky for us, the place where we are staying has connections with a hiking company that gives tours of the glacier. It's going to be great!

Best of all, were we are staying is the Eplet Bed and Apple. There aren't very many places to stay up in the region, especially when they are so expensive. Eplet on the other hand is very affordable. Technically it's a hostel, but its so far away from the cities that it's transmuted into a quaint little place with eco-friendly grass cutters (sheep) and a rolling apple orchard going up to the main house. They are supposed to have the best apple juice in Norway. (Well maybe not the best, but I can hope).

I will try my best to continue my posting schedule, and upload pictures to the Internet. Can't make any promises, but I assure you that the pictures will be phenomenal  We leave on Monday from San Diego International Airport at 8:10pm and arrive in Oslo, Norway at 8:25pm Tuesday night. Catch you soon! I will finally be able to visit the place that my book is about!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Rod and Mackerel

I once knew an old fellow. He was a man from the south country. His body was bloated and his voice loud and boisterous. His cap always covered his baldness, and he hid it well. With rod in hand, every day I saw him walk down the steep grade, over the sweeping hills, until he vanished off in the distance. A fisherman never shared his secret spot, and I never cared to ask. He would always return with a single fish. It would be large, vigorously kicking defiantly to it's bitter end. I would watch flummoxed. Where could they come from?

My mother was not very helpful on the subject. She had her suspicions I knew, but they were not ready to be shared with me. They were stories of the community no doubt. I myself heard one once, that the man was a demon. Those weren't fish he had caught, but people he had tricked into playing his game and were transformed into dinner. Every day in the twilight of the waning sun, I would see him bumbling along, whistling a tune, sporting a mackerel and rod in either hand.

But one day I saw him coming down the grade, and I decided to be brave.

"Sire," I said stepping in front of him, "Where be you off this fine weathered day?"

He didn't see me and continued to walk through me. I turned and watched him go on, whistling his tune. I was rather cross about the whole thing really. The nerve to ignore me. Deep down, I had had enough. I decided to follow him.

For close to an hour I followed him, watching from quite a distance, for the road was open and no more trees grew in the hills for me to hide in. I continued this all afternoon until finally I realized that the countryside had changed, or was changing - it was quite difficult to tell really. There was nothing out of the ordinary that I could place. No purple ovine  or two legged cows, mind you. It was the very substance of the world that seemed to distance itself from me. I looked up and saw the world shimmering brighter than I would have expected, as if the very sun had merged with the mediocre things. It didn't bother the old chap however, He just bumbled along, as he always did.

When I had all but lost hope, I saw the man finally set down his things, next to a placid pool of water, ballooning out from a larger stream that ran all the way to what I expected was the oceans. And there he sat unassuming, placing the rod into a small hole carved into the rocks at the waterside. Ruffling his jacket he took out the morning paper and began thumbing through it, his whistle transformed into a throaty hum. I saw this all from the grass actually, where I lay prone on the edge of the hill top. My whole life I never knew such a place existed, and I was quite the country boy.

"Think you can get the drop on me, eh lad?" He called out, his eyes still lost in the paper. "I may be old but my sense of smell is still sharper than a bleedin' sword."

I froze. How did he know? My breath was suddenly stricken. Lost in panic I stood up and lost my footing at the center of the hill. My body rocked forwards as I cried out. "Oh the misfortune," I thought as the ground gave out, "this is going to bloody hurt..."

To be Continued...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Helpful Tips: Maximize Your Productivity

So I guess this actually pertains to time management rather than writing tips. Everyone can benefit from it though. Trust me, I'm a (writing) doctor.

This last week or two, I've had some downtime because I've finished some big projects. Understandably so I've also taken a load off, started playing videogames again and such, but there's so much more that we can do with our time. My writing schedule is generally a blog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, a short fiction, and writing a script for my upcoming graphic novel. That's a lot to do. The worst thing you can attempt is just say, "Well, Saturday I've got nothing to do, may as well do it then..."

Definitely not a good Idea.

Task's are removed of their scary portents when done in advance. That's just common sense. When I was in college I was taking four English classes per quarter, and a performance vocal course. Think about that for a moment. Each paper had a pre-midterm essay, midterm essay, post-midterm essay, and final exam essay.That's four papers, all of which were announced around the same time give or take a few days here and there. Every quarter I wrote about 16 essays. So what I  would do to not lose my mind was this. I would cushion, spread out the projects. The second I got my assignment I would do it, knowing that in two or three days I would get another one. It's a cost/benefit analysis: constant activity over grueling peaks of activity interspersed with leisure. I never once had to work an overnight in college. I would just space it out.

So in your writing, that's where I left off...

Lets say this is your weekly work load:

3 blog posts

2 side projects

1 recreational book

1 Column

This is the approx workload for any writer, who wants to make it. It takes time and perseverance  so don't just think that posting pics of your cat one or twice a week will cut it. This kind of schedule puts out content on a regular basis with the promise of larger projects always in the works. It's good for the fans as well as good for yourself for maximum exposure.


Each day the blogs can be written and posted at your leisure. It's important to do that in the moment, because It helps you become a better writer while also keeping you on par with current events. Some will disagree with me and say it's best to write material ahead of time. People can tell when you are just filling in space. What I do is look at it like this. My Monday post generally is about a topic that I kick around throughout the week in my brain. I don't write about it until Monday however. My Wednesday post is different. I try as hard as I can to write my short fictions or poetry on Saturday afternoon after my column writing is finished. It's best to plan ahead for those, have something to sit on and come back to. Friday posts are spontaneous. That's the best angle.

Side Projects

These can be anything, but I can classify these as tasks that are medium to large in size, something that takes longer than two weeks to complete in full. This would be my book, Spirit of Orn and the graphic novel that I am getting ready to start. Work on these projects Monday through Friday consistently for about an hour to two and a half hours per day. I work in the morning only because that's the time I have free. Some of you do the 9-5 corporate thing, so in that case do it after work later on in the evening. Never start working right after you get home. You will never get anything done. Trust me, it doesn't work.

Recreational Book

Think of it this way: a cook can't be a good cook if he's not eating. Writing is very taxing business. You'll find yourself lacking in energy and creativity if you are just pouring out your spirit constantly. Recreational reading helps to put that back into you. Make sure though that what you are reading correlated with your genre and craft. Try your best not to read nonfiction when you are writing fiction. These books are approached by formulas vastly different from one another. It will confuse your writing style more than anything else, and make your characters sound more robotic. When to read is not the question, or how much. Set goals for this task: one book per month, or two. Make sure to stay on task and finish it.

The Column

No writer is complete without the age old cliche of the "column." They also happen to be incredibly important. Here's why: resume building. You must write for someone else. You must challenge yourself, commit yourself, and deliver a product once a week consistently. Realize that writing is not only a craft but a job and just another part of the industry experience. If you ever want to do anything you love, it has to come out of commitment and endurance. Right now I write for Sequart Research. That's my commitment. It's been an awesome experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Check out my articles over there and embrace comics for their literary merit!

So we've covered a lot of stuff today. I hope it helps you in your writing. Please remember to share the stuff you like. Notoriety is great, but making a positive influence is greater, and longer lasting. I want you all to succeed at what your write, that's my hope hope. So give this to your friends, swear by it, and change some lives. A lot of this information has only been transferred from my betters who I once approached and and asked how they did it themselves. Hope you all benefit from it as much as I have!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Very Special Mother's Day Post

Glain fell his catch
A great hero.
Songs were sung then,
Boasting his strength.

Lo, He sent off
His precious prize,
"A gift upon,
My kindly Sire,
Strong in her hips
Bearer of kings."

"No mead wench is she.
Her men fall down
Grovel and 'spair.
None can boast this."

"Gift of the ancients
Older than stone,
I sing her songs, 
Glad in tidings,
Of Victory."

This stag belong
To none but her,
Glain's Beginner.
Happy Mothers Day.

Love Stuart

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dramatis Personæ

Normally I wouldn't do this, but I feel strangely enamored with the whole situation, it's intricacies and how it turned out. I am effected directly, caught in the crossfire, no way out. I feel like I am in an action movie from the 80's.

My secret Identity, when I am not writing books/comics/blogs, is that of a lowly technician position at a medium sized brewing facility. I don't speak much to it frankly. I must hide it, for the benefit of my friends, family, potential contractors, etc. They say one must refrain from quitting their "day-job" and I have done just that, valiantly so. But within the hodgepodge of the broken american spirit conflict arises that both befuddles and amuses me.

Yesterday it came to my attention that last week one of my co-workers initiated an epic conflict on the scale of the biblical. It was more of coup d'état than anything, a drunken grab for power that had no hope of winning. Information was fabricated, disseminated, and sown among the proletariat,  and now the crimson tides of war are brewing. 

My God, is this what people do in their spare time?

Consider the reality: a fallen union, a disparaged team member(s), and a red scare. Why do things like this need to happen. I am under no fantasy that the "day-job" is a glorious undertaking. It is a grueling, belaboring mistress that robs one of his twenties until that fateful day when an angel descends from heaven to extract him from the festering refuse. (Mine arrived earlier, but the economy was/is bad. Go figure.) So now, in going to work, I must endure this. Whatever possessed this lowly servant to rise up in rebellion against my fellow compatriots is mysterious and malevolent. Apparently this had happened before in another section of the brewery, and now Ivan the Terrible has come to spread his cancer to our resilient labor force. This can only be bad for all of us. Lawd Ha' Merceh!

On a side note though, I have successfully completed my third draft of Spirit of Orn. I am very excited about it, naturally. My wife now steadily edits it, and hopefully by July I will have something to look through and then have ready for publishing. After I am done I will give it out to people and see what they think. Not before copywriting it though. After these past couple of days, I am suspect of all things. 

Oh! and I am going to Norway with peace of mind for all my affairs are now in order! Huzzah!

I have to hand it to Nettbuss Ekspressbuss for the very affordable tickets. I love it! 

That is all internet, have a glorious weekend. 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whispers From a Ghost

“Tell me a story my boy! Your king demands it!”

Two thick pairs of arms escort me before the king, who rises halfway from his seat to take a look at me. He is Hadrian, King of Norway. The name, I have heard him speak, is the name of a great king, who names and deeds were lost in time. All he did, to my knowledge, was put up walls, hiding behind them while his enemy plotted in the highlands.

I am not afraid. He killed my Mama and Papa, but I am not afraid.

“What story does his majesty desire?” My eyes do not rise to meet his. I will not make that mistake again.

The king looks to his general and smiles looks back at me one more.

“Tell me a war story.” he says.

That's not so bad, I think. I know plenty of those.

“In lands far off, beyond the seas to the west,” I begin, addressing the stillness of the crowd, “there was a land once, filled with plenty. It's people were mighty, and arrogant. They took what they wanted when they wanted, and it was good. Across their land, stretching for hundreds and hundreds of leagues was food and crops of all kinds. Potatoes a big as your head, with neeps and carrots even larger. Their army was great, perhaps greater than any other, for their catapults were magic and could hit anything.”

“But as they grew, their hearts and minds grew soft. The great feats they had performed could no longer feed the morale of their people. Slowly they grew less courageous, and eventually, they fell asleep to their former glory.”

“The times called then for a new challenge. No longer did the nations rule by power and strength, but with influence. Their generals became merchants. Their common people became builders and inventors. Not long after they began to sell their tools and creations to the king, and to other kings, for they were not afraid and also greedy.”

“One of them rose up then, a common man. He looked out over the world and saw the great land. It strove and it fought for recognition, but he saw the lives of the people to be dull. He decided then to give them something special, to remind them of the goodness they had achieved. He made toys and gifts for all who would buy them, until he had made so many that he too rivaled the power of the great land, for it's people where enamored with his work. But then he looked out over them again, and he was sad. The people were far worse now. They were selfish, shiftless, backbiting, and demanding.”

“When his children saw, they were saddened by their father's grief. 'We shall make the world over again,' the oldest said pridefully. 'No,' said the middle one, 'We must teach them humility.'”

“Among the children, concerning the fate of the great land, they debated and argued amongst themselves, until the youngest cried out, 'Let us go out among them, and restore them to their toil. Like sleepy creatures they will be pulled from their stupor, and remake the world anew themselves.'”

“And so they did, each of them, traveling to the four corners of the world. There they took apart the world. Many died, and wars broke out, but man endured...”

The king's eyes narrow upon me. I do not know if he was pleased with my story, but he stood and took his generals with him. The hall grew quiet. The coldness in my arms swelled, for I wonder if I have done a bad thing. Fear grips my heart like a tyrant, and I shiver. When the king returns he is ponderous, taking a seat again, with his general at his side.

“This story,” the king begins, “it is an old one? Are you trying to teach me a lesson, boy?”

“No!” I gasp, falling on my knees. “It is the story of my people.”

“And how am I to like this story, when it is the great and powerful nation that falls to the children of a mere man. Where they gods? There is no such thing as gods.”

“My father told me the story truthfully,” I say, my eyes bowed to the floor, “it was to remind me of the cost of power, but also of our people. For long ago we came from that land.”

“This story is not amusing or battle worthy,” The king sighs, shaking his head. “Take him away.”

As they reach down to grab me, I struggle, then submit. Their hold is strong, and I am not. In taking my leave I watch the warm hall fade from sight, as I am thrown out into the cold of night. The guards say something, but I cannot hear them, for the wailing of the wind is too high for me to hear. Disappearing into the hall, I am left alone once more to fend for myself. 

This is the cost of a true story, I ponder. Nobody likes hearing true stories.     

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adding to Existing Projects

This is a nuance thing.

I just finished Spirit of Orn (woohoo!) and now it's time for the gritty 300-esque montage of Mechanical and Structural editing. I'm thinking about doing a series on ways to make these types of editing processes go by faster, or at least be carried out with some efficiency, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, I will say that I faced my most challenging moments in the final pages of the third revision, and I wanted to talk about why this is.

You see, when it comes to adding to existing projects it's really burdensome because what you are doing is actively entering in to something that was written months before and then taking current writing and meshing it all together. This is troublesome because, as writers  we are always improving our craft, and there are always new ways to approach older sections of dialogue. So a compromise must be met between what was written before, and what is to be written later on. Otherwise you will be trapped in the cycle of continual revision.

What I try to do to make this easier is prioritizing the changes and editing as so:

1. Implement New Plot - Even if you have to erase whole chunks of dialogue, do what needs to be done. You can't have old dialogue side-by-side with new material that follows new continuity. It'll sound jarring and cliche.

2. Assume Your Voice - Each character in project additions will have changed tremendously since your previous draft. Make sure the character personalities are consistent.

3. Mesh With Earlier Drafts - This is your last priority because you want your story to have all of the bases covered before salvaging old material. In Spirit Of Orn I noticed that it was character dialogue in traveling sections that I least had to worry about. "Quirk" moments are easily retained.

Here's an example of how to do this:
General Tamberlain placed the cold binoculars to his face, chilling the heat of his brow. In the distance the artillery fired, the dull pops echoing across the battlefield. There would be blood very soon. The deep trenches would fill up to the knees, and his brethren would die. 
If he wished one thing, it would be to return home, to see the winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes. Only then would he be happy. No, this would not happen though. He was certain of it. The dark tides of war had shifted. He would die this day.
If I were to change the "plot" of this short narrative what could I do? Plot, when distilled down to it's basic components, becomes a collection of verbs, actions that motivate the story. Everything else here is adjectives and modifiers in function. So separating this out would look like this:
Plot: General Tamberlain placed the cold binoculars to his facedark tides of war had shifted / He would die this day.  
Adjective: artillery fired / deep trenches would fill up to the knees /  winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes 
Modifyer: There would be blood /  brethren would die /  then would he be happy / this would not happen though
I can retain pretty much all original dialogue if I replace just the highlighted stuff. Here you can see that Tamberlain is assessing, realizing, and coping with his death. The binoculars show him "arriving" at a situation. Without added detail, the change in power assumes that he was betrayed, or let down. Finally the anticipated death seals his fate. If I were to "revise" his fate this is what it would look like:

General Tamberlain raised the glass of water to his forehead, chilling the heat of his brow. In the distance the artillery fired, the dull pops echoing across the battlefield. There would be blood very soon. The deep trenches would fill up to the knees, and his brethren would die. 
If he wished one thing, it would be to return home, to see the winter sunlight pierce the clouds of the arctic wastes. Only then would he be happy. No, this would not happen though. He was certain of it. Command required him at Storm Base Alpha for new recruits. He wouldn't see Johannesburg for two more years.
See? Pretty cool, huh?

I gave you here two lessons, now that I think about it... If you enjoyed it though share it around and tell your friends. I've been getting a lot of questions recently following my last Sequart article. Check it out!


Friday, May 3, 2013

One Huge Pain in My Ass

Some Updates for You:

Thus far the week has gone pretty well. I myself am pretty pleased with my last Sequart article. It was a doosy to write, but probably my favorite to research. I look back on my writing and watch how it's improved over the weeks and I am happy that I found those guys. Great practice for me, and great work for them. It's a win win on all fronts.

Earlier this week I cut my finger on a piece of glass at work. Three stitches! But hey, sometimes you have to make mistakes that compromise the expediency of your running projects! I actually hate being immobilized primarily because I can't maintain my regimen of fitness. Soon I will look like some out of work 80's action star. Oh God, I'm becoming David Hasselhoff...

I am also very excited to finally see Iron Man 3. I'll talk about the next week, somehow.

Spirit Of Orn is nearly finished. It was as if yesterday I started my third revision. What I find funny about the whole thing though is that in my edits I found myself writing much better material only a few months ago. In the final stages of my impending creative freedom I have sequestered myself away in my darkened apartment only to find my final moments waning in enthusiasm. I've had to completely rewrite the final chapter, which is of course something I expected. It just takes so long. I feel like I have a sea lion hung across my shoulders.

Last night I finally bought the bus tickets to Norway. You have no idea how critical that step was in my planing. Finally, my Wife and I can travel to this distant locale with the peace of mind that we can sleep on a bus instead of an airport chair, bound overnight to our location. The final step of my plans is to convert my travel budget income into Norwegian Kroner. It's so marvelous when things go your way! And you wouldn't believe these buses. WIFI on every bus and comfortable chairs! $42 to travel 500 miles to a backwater village? Good Lord, why aren't we socialists?

Anyways, I am in love with life right now. Jesus is lining up all the ducks and I am missing most of them (but hitting the main ones)! Next week I promise a better story for Wednesday, in my handicap and the procurement of my meds I was unable to post one until later in the afternoon.

See you all next week!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Scar Me That I May Go to Dine Honorably

"My friend, when the one eyed man comes to take you, you will know.

His hand will break your spirit but his rewards are everlasting in the great hall of    victory."
       Eyarr Son of Thrain, ca. 561 AD

How long have I been here? I hear the sound of footsteps. They blur into my subconscious. A pulse, gently wakes me. Have I died? The echo behind the pule is artificial, to put the patient at ease. When they told me I would die here, I fell asleep before I could protest.


Why now?

She is coming for me, to take me away on the boat of nails. I don't want to go. Not yet.

My mind splits under the lights. My friends and family stare at me, cry over me, their farfar. I am not dead yet. Why do you cry as if I have already passed? I will go to the halls of feasting, you will see. I will not be carried away into the darkness. Not yet.

In the old country, a man must die honorably. Take the knife and gouge out my eyes, that Odin may smile upon me. I will not go to the place where the souls of the weak go. They lie there like creatures, lost in the darkness. They are the fodder of Ragnarok, those that will die first. I will not fall to them. No, I will cleave them with my fathers in the final battle.

They tell me that last thing a man sees is his fate. My brethren whimper above me like children. Why are you sad?

Do you know not?

Today I go to dine forever in Odin's hall.

They will see someday. When Baldur the Fair meets his end they shall see.

From the ashes I will rise a new man. And the World shall look on me, remade.

Today I ride, forever into darkness. But I will rise.

I will rise.