Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Snap Shot Theater: Authorial Intent

"Passing time, eh Mr. Evans?"

Todd looked over his type writer, and saw his assistant Greg, a tiny man, peaking his head through the door jam. Todd folded his papers discretely and placed them neatly onto his desk and leaned back in his chair, bobbing side to side against the ribbed spring built into the lumbar support.

"Killing it, more like it," Todd replied distantly. "I've been at it for nearly two months at this, bloody thing. You think after writing books for 10 years it would've gotten easier."

"That's the game sir," Greg said politely stepping inside. He held in his hand a small manila folder and approached Todd routinely.

"Those are your tickets for tonight," he said formally. "They will give you access to the suite as well. The concierge advised strongly not to misplace them."

Todd nodded, distracted. He watched Greg place the folder across his other papers.

He stood up and approached the window of his flat looking out over the bustling streets below him. Cabs whirred by along ancient cobbled roads, splashing up oiled water and tar.

"How do they do it," he mumbled aloud.

"Sir?" he heard Greg from behind.

Todd looked back at the petite, confused man and directed his attention to the window.

"Those," he said vaguely, "The blokes out there. They go to and from their posts every day without a care in the world. Here I am stuck in here, trifling over commas and semicolons. Had I taken my mother's advice I would have worked my entire like in the mines and thought nothing of it."

"And, you would have died of miner's lung long ago, absolute waste that would have been." Greg in a reassuring voice. Do you want me to call ahead and see to the dining arrangements? Will your wife be attending?"

Todd felt himself being lifted from his musings and back to the world. He glanced back at Greg who held a yellow pad, ready to take down his whims and cares. "What an enthusiastic fellow," thought Todd. "Is he a bug too?"

"Suzanne will not be joining us," Todd said, returning back to his desk. He wrapped his knuckles across the oak grain. "She has a book signing in Westminster tonight, I'm afraid."

"Very well then," Greg continued along, "dinner for one. I will see you there tonight, Mr. Evans."

"Yes," Todd replied absently, running his fingers along the manila folder. "Quite... I will see you there."

Watching Greg leave his study, Todd felt world weary. He sat back down at his desk, stared at the typewriter and reinserted the papers, dialing them in. And, leaving back in his chair, he could not think of what to write, or find reason to. It was just a blank page. Only, a blank page.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing the Non-Fiction Novel: Getting Started (Part 2)

Okay, so last week we were dealing with the preliminary steps to writing a non-fiction project. We went over how to formulate an outline, develop the focus of the project, and collect works on interest that will contribute to your research.  This week I wanted to go over the second part of that lesson. I didn't have enough time to write it, so this week we shall talk about how to synthesize and process information down into bite sized morsels that will constitute your book.

The big idea when writing non-fiction is that your work will be cumulative by nature, meaning over time the book will gradually form over subsequent re-writes. These re-writes offer additional content, refining points, and so on. So don't try to talk about everything when covering a point. Realistically, in each chapter you will have your big idea, followed by a directory of subtopics that will comprise the overall thesis of the chapter. If I'm writing about cars for instance, specifically the history of a model, I will begin with writing about the engineer that designed the car, it's motor, and the success of it's initial run. Notice that I didn't talk about the designer's favorite chewing gum that inspired him/her to make the car a particular color. Those kinds of details come later. Hit the big points and move on, then come back later.

The same idea applies to gathering information from books to support your thesis. I bought the Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost for research materials while I was writing my chapter on Christianity in my Sandman book. The first time I read the works I made certain that all I was processing on the first read was the basic story. I laid the foundation of understanding on the first pass so that in later reads I could understand what was going on while getting finer plot details. Also, I could expedite my quoting and sourcing, because I knew exactly what part of the book to find the particular quote that I was looking for. Any other aspects of the book's philosophy or content will apply like paper mache onto the wire frame of understanding in your mind, always incrementally.

Anything else regarding the processing of information, I would encourage you all to be thorough. Never skimp on detail. Ultimately you will write faster and more efficiently when you are passionate about what you are writing about. If you find that you are enamored with the bubblegum idea, pursue it. It could lead to a better point, or a better way to articulate a section.

That's all for today! Tune in next week for more!



SW


Friday, April 25, 2014

Sledgehammer

I've had a rough past few weeks. "Die on your sword," kinda rough.

My Sandman book is one chapter deep now. I've learned a lot about non-fiction writing through it. Actually, it's been really great, all things considered. But my body has taken it's toll. I've been stripped pretty bad. I wouldn't be surprised if I have an ulcer or some kind of gastrointestinal, stress related condition from all the work I've been doing.

I wish I could tell you things have been, "great." I can't and I'll tell you why.

When you work to pay the bills and do what you love to do, two dual lives constantly demanding attention in your life, there is a certain etiquette that must be maintained. Each "boss" doesn't want to know you're stretched thin, tired, pissed off. You are trying to survive extreme cold and extreme heat back and fourth. That is what it's like, and this week I compromised the balance. I don't mean in a bad way, but I just mean in a shitty way.

I feel like rock getting wailed on by a sledgehammer. Today I'll try to see the doctor for a follow up. I'm hoping for a referral to someone who can look at my G.I. track.

Cross your fingers.


SW 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Snap Shot Theater: He Bends the Iron

In the blue, metallic silhouette he bends the iron.

Crackling flakes, ferric embers shaking like chaff off the rods.

He bends the iron.

Sitting, bending low, hunched over, the thinker, meditating on his trial.

He bends the iron.

A stray glance, he spies them, observing from behind concealed surfaces. Eyes burning with resentment greet him, his own. He sees the inner darkness coming out of him, hiding behind gray eyes.

He bends the iron.

The stool, creaks and bends underneath him. Metal roughs the concrete, chipping away stone. He tips to one side, and feels the world turning on the axis.

He bends the iron.

Two, long, years, trapped in the room. He hears them like mice, rattling the rafters above him, below him, all encompassing, they scurry. Long ago he learned not to test them, the mice. Biting energy surges through his buttocks and testicles, reminding him what he is, what he will continue to be.

He bends the iron.

One day, a man enters. He is pale, slender, a stranger. Questions, accusations, allegations, are asked, said. He looks up into the man's eyes and sees fear. He sees his muscles, his hardened skin, his anger and indignation. He will not escape, the man promises. He will endure, "until testing is complete." And Despair takes him.

He bends the iron.

He bends the iron.

He bends the iron.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing the Non-Fiction Novel: Getting Started

So I've been writing this non-fiction novel the past month or so. I'm steadily working at it and learning a lot. I figured, then, it might behoove me to write a little series on what I've learned from mistakes and occasional victories. This is the first lesson, so I'll be talking mostly about prep today. In the coming weeks I'll cover content, research, and the whole gambit of things. 

Before writing a non fiction novel, it's good to understand your topic. I don't mean to say, "first, pick out a topic." Imagine that your book has already been completed by someone else out there. What do you think it would be about? What would it cover? how would the points be laid out? Non-fiction books usually have varying formats, so figure out how you want to tackle that. Most non-fiction books have a general thesis that is proposed at the beginning of the draft. Then, after some honing, the point gets more fine tuned and specific, with each chapter cumulatively building back to the original point proposed in the forward or introduction. Imagine a hill: the flat beginning, followed by the slope, followed by the peak, then the downward slope, finalized by the flat ending. Your points follow this kind of flow. 

After getting the hang of your topic, you'll be ready to write an outline, or a general layout of the book. These are super important. Non-fiction writing, unlike fictional narrative writing, is inherently procedural. You'll write point A, then a subpoint, then another, then follow up with point B. This is very standard writing for school text books, or historical accounts. It helps me because my Sandman book for Sequart Organization, follows religion, so my flow will begin with the most basic expressions of spirituality and then concluded by the most complicated. The outline helps lay out the road from start to finish really well. 

Research follows after the outlining process. Now that you have your points, you can go out and buy your books. The great thing about waiting until this step to buy you books is that, once you write your outline, your points will be very specific and on track with where the book will go, and what it will cover. If you have a chapter dealing with a very specific kind of cheese, you now have the benefit of being able to go out and find a book on that very specific kind of cheese without finding out halfway through your project that you just bought a bunch of worthless books on other cheeses. Make sense?

I'm still not done with the getting started section, but I'm on a time budget here. Tune in next week to get the rest of the dirt on writing non-fiction! Until then, I'll see you on Wednesday. 



SW

Friday, April 18, 2014

Apple a Day...

This week has been interesting for a few reasons.

I've realized that I can't over work myself. This seems a given, or maybe obvious, but not to me. I've always worked with this superhuman mentality. I've had this wild fantasy of going on a run and dying because I was just so hardcore that my heart gave out. I would hope that a passerby would say something like, "Geeze, way to go man." Though, the more I contemplate it, I think they would just scream and dial 911. It's a sex-on-a-burning-viking-ship point of view, to borrow a phrase. As I get older though, I realize that I am getting too old for this shit.

I lieu of my health issues I was rather incapacitated this week due to some bowel troubles. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I could be afflicted with so many arrows of misfortune. Lucky for me, I have health insurance, otherwise I would be a mess.

The ups and downs were peaks and valleys to the extreme. I made good head way on social media this week. Patton Oswalt RT's my article, which was pretty cool. And then for some goofy reason Gerard Way, who I had no idea who he was until I did a Google search, commented on the article. my suspicions were confirmed when I realized that a bunch of weird emo kids were favoriting my stuff. Good exposure though.

Site traffic has been slowing down substantially, but I found out that the reason why is that all the spam bots have left my site alone finally. That is a good and bad thing. It's nice to see real numbers for a change, but I'm also beginning to wonder if I should switch to a more professional platform like WordPress. I will eventually, but I'm beginning to feel it out.

Moral of the story here is that a healthy mindset goes a long way. I feel pretty good about the site, my health, and my progress. I just won't get too over enthusiastic about it. Progress is being made on my Graphic novel and the Sequart book so I am juiced either way.

Here's to you, interwebz.



SW

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snap Shot Theater: Clear the Room

Splinters of particle wood explode into the air. Rubber booted storm troopers engage. Hostiles are green lit for extermination. Sodder stands with them, smoking a blunted cigar. The embers burn into his lungs, filling his heart with fire. 

"Fuckin' A," his lieutenant grunts next to him, "Gara lives in a shit hole."

"Run a screen of the back door," Sodder says, extinguishing his cigar on a pleather sofa cushion. "I don;t want him getting out." Turning to the others he motions them to march forward. "Tear it down!"

The news of his brother being sanctioned, that was a hard day for Sodder. Opening his datatron he looks at the shimmering hologram of his brother, cascading white light along the edges. They both went to the academy together, three years apart. Father Gara had even christened them both. That was a long time ago.
Norman betrayed him. He should had never carried out the sanction. He knew it was a set up. 

Above living room shots fire out, warning rounds. 

Sodder walks into the kitchen and pulls up a chair, rests his feet up onto the table. A bowl of fruit is dimly lit under the florescent light. The bananas looks jaundiced. Green mold grows on the apples. Father Gara, MIA, at a safe house, cowering for his life. "At least I can torch his shitty apartment," Sodder thinks.

Bursting into the door, the lieutenant emerges, holding up his rifle propped onto his shoulder. "No sign, Chief," he says formally. Two more men emerge behind him, then one more. The whole squad crowds in around Sodder, their leader, battle hardened and attentive. 

"Our man is Commission veted," Sodder begins. "He's been around, knows your moms and dads, christened in the name of evil. The old bastard took something from me, and now I'm going to get it back, with interest. We are going to find this guy, torch him, and eat him, and by god If you don't search this place harder I'm going to waste every one of you!"

Sodder rubs his eyes in frustration. 

"Does he have any other places he lies low at?" Sodder looks in between the men. 

"Guy has a safe house down offa' Sepulveda," a grunt forwards.

Sodder shakes his head. 

"Naw, already checked that place." 

"The Commision going to help us find him?" the lieutenant interjects.

"Blood debt, Sam. We don't see the Commission for this kinda' stuff."

A silence enters the kitchen, awkward, unusually long. 

"Well Christ!" Sodder explodes with anger. "Then where the Hell is he?"

Suddenly, the wall trembles and decays, the tiles melting under intense heat. They all stare at the wall, dumbfounded, alarmed. Sodder gets up, backing out of his chair holding his blaster. Dust motes fly into the room covering evey thing. Coughing hard, Sodder covers his mouth and curses in between breaths. And when the dust settles, all becomes clear. 

Standing behind a mounted gatling blaster, Norman Gara stands laboring over his large machine. Beside him, Deftus cocks the hammer of a revolver. For a moment, Sodder is speechless, then morose. 

"Sodder," Father Gara announces above the roar of the prefire sequence, "You have been sanctioned by The Commission for behavior unbecoming of a human with dignity."

He winks at Deftus, wearing a grin. 

"Light em' up!"


Monday, April 14, 2014

Writing Essentials: Faith

I got a chance to read a new book this weekend called Unnatural Talent this past weekend by Jason Brubaker. There was a thought in there that really resonated with me, and I thought I would pass it along to you fellow struggling writers out there.

When it comes to the craft, the art of writing, few understand the critical truth that, in order to write, you have to believe in what your are writing; hence, "Faith." What I mean by this, is that writing is a calling. What that means for you should be that the art of writing coincides with your life in a tangible, meaningful way. It's not just about "being a good writer." It's about believing that, by writing, you are doing what you were meant to do. Some days I "wake up an atheist," if you will. I wake up going, "today I will write a blog, about something. I don't know yet. I guess I'll just have to do something." Usually on those days my writing is terrible, and it's pretty clear.

This happens because we don't believe in what we are doing. We aren't convinced that, on some higher level, we were called to be a writer. It's like Alcoholics Anonymous that have to admit to a "higher power" as one of the final steps to beating alcohol. It's the larger than life stuff that change our perspectives. It should be the same with writing and how it alters our attitudes towards it.

Believe in your writing. Understand that what you are doing means something, in the grand scheme of things. If you don' feel this way about writing, find something that you can feel like that about. Just some food for thought. If you ever get a chance to check out Jason's book, you ought to. It's really good.

See you all on Wednesday!



SW

Friday, April 11, 2014

Duress

Tensions are high at the day job today. I'd suspect it was because of the drama, or being overworked, or the long hours. It's one of those days that will be one to look back on, remember, and be glad that you were able to move on and get out.

This is usually how it goes. Moments of productivity are met with stagnation. This is not an exclusive problem to me though. I've heard in all the creative fields that the greatest obstacle to outputting content is the daily rigmarole that arises. I believe that this is all testing. Nobody ever gets good at writing, or being an artist, or being a game developer when life is easy going. Generally it's those pinch points, the days at the day job when everything goes bat shit crazy, when an idea comes to you. It's like Genesis under duress. God may have been the only creator that did have a bad day when he made it all.

Thankfully, I have some evidence of progress. I've begun writing about Milton in the Sandman book. The corollaries there are pretty remarkable. Gaiman is either a genius, or some conduit that taps into the vein of  the human experience. He and Milton seem to ask the same questions. Of course their answers are markedly different, but that is just because they are products of their eras.

So far, I'm about ten thousand words in. My only worry is that some chapters of the book will look lopsided in effort and priority. Hopefully this is just indicative of Gaiman's reliance on post-biblical texts. I don't blame him. We are all westerners after all. We all ask similar questions, that Christianity seems to address either directly or indirectly. Whether or not it's your cup of tea, the concepts there are heavy laden. They weigh on your soul, and people talk about them. I don't mind either way.

That's me today! See you all next week.


SW

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Snap Shot Theater: Spring Meadows and Cybernetic Butterflies

Grass was coming in hazy neon green spurts, due to atmospheric interference. Emerald oscillations, rotating intermittently between primary colors and half tones, it was beautiful. Only the endowed could see it with their fiber optic implants. Father Gara sat in the park with them, blind to the carnival that swirled between the nano fragments of passing time.

He opened a brown paper bag that sat in his lap. Inside was a Saturday night special. Vintage was all he could get on his pension anymore. It wasn't like the good old days, back when he had blasters, C1 clearance, the "Cleaners." Sodder hounded him with death threats, which hardly threatened him. The annoying packages, demeaning posts, only annoyed him. Truth be told, he was worried about Deftus.

Couples, pushing their designer babies in corporate sponsored strollers, passed him by, vain and oblivious. Father Gara held his peace. He wasn't a "kid person," he told himself. That was why he joined The Commission. No children, no hangups, just work. The little products, bouncing along, doted on by their affluent parents, lived in ignorance. They didn't know about the dying world, and the masses they oppressed, simply by being alive. Father Gara smiled, as he realized that Santa Monica was timeless. Fashionable transience, somehow, had escaped the tinsel gilded materialism.

Waves braking on a cerulean beach, hot with static.

A man took a seat next to him. He wasn't a hitman. Too old, just out to feed the birds. Father Gara heard him clear his throat, coughing hard.

"Norman," then man said. He paused, trying to find his next words, while Father Gara began to hyperventilate. No one knew his real name..."

"Why so down on your luck, eh?" The old man said quietly. Reaching into his own bag he scattered bird seed along the gritty charcoal stained pavement. "You were so charming when you were younger."

"Norman is dead," Father Gara replied in monotone. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"What is bothering you, Norman?" the Old man insisted. "When you were my own page, there was always a way out. What happened to you?"

Father Gara looked over, and recognized the man: MacLauren, retired high council. When he was a boy, he was Father MacLauren.

"You? What are you doing here?" Father Gara said calmly, maintaining his distance. "I thought you were dead?"

The old man laughed.

"Dead? Not yet..." He said in a charming voice. "When I saw you, I knew you were on the run. Still... Doesn't mean I can't keep you company."

"Things are bad, MacLauren," Father Gara said slowly, hiding his mouth from view. "I've got a blood feud on my hands, just for doing my job. The Commission has left me out to dry, and I got nothing left."

"Sounds like the usual," the old man said. He scattered another handful of birdseed across the pavement. "When I was first promoted, some young punk with a gun tried to take me out." Father Gara broke his cover, looking over in surprise. He had not expected that one.

"Yes, sirree," Confirmed MacLuaren. "But, you know what I did? I bounced back, found him in an alleyway and finished him off quickly. You see, anyone can die in a car bombing, or a certified assassination. That, there, that's a quick death. Nothing wrong with a quick death, either. But then, there's the slow going ones, the demise that takes years to conclude. Between the two, it's worth taking the chance, and you, Norman, you need to decide which one you are going to have."

The man trailed off into silence. After a moment he glanced into his bag and then crumpled it up.

"Well," he said nonchalantly, "what do you know? I've run out again."

Getting up the old man, stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets, hiding the birdseed.

"Take care of yourself, Norman," he said, then turned away.

And Norman Gara, for a moment, felt different. It was then that he knew what he had to do.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Writing Essentials: Consistency

Getting into the writing game depends on a few factors: style, personality, content. But all of these aspects of your writing are dependent on some core writing competencies. Having a good idea is one thing, but being consistent, producing content on a regular basis, is actually one of the most important qualities in a writer.

If you follow a particular writer, you probably check their twitter feed, or look for updates on their Facebook, or personal website for new material. A good writer always has new content up on a regular basis. Now, "regular" doesn't always mean new content everyday. Magazine readers expect a monthly issue. Beer drinkers expect annual beer releases. What "regular" means in this context is the expectation of content. So don't sweat it if your content updates are slower than compared to other writers.  Quality determines the value of your updates.

Consistency also means other things for your writing. The saying "practice makes perfect" is doubly true for writing. If you write consistently, you will expose yourself to writing, and therefore get better.  Some writers are better than others, but I guarantee that the writers who stand out from the nameless thousands do so because of practice and the sheer volume of material that these writers compose on a regular basis. Being consistent not only helps people pay attention to your work, it helps your portfolio as well.

I sort of touched on this earlier, but always make sure that when you are writing that the quality doesn't vary between story to story, especially in a series. We all have "off days," but be prepared for them when they come. The story must always come out whether or not you're ready to write it, so always bounce ideas around. That's always helped me.

Consistency is key! Always. I hope these tips helped. See you all on Wednesday.



SW

Friday, April 4, 2014

"You Outta Time Brotha!"

Sometimes I yearn to see all the fantasy scenarios that stir and mash in my brain to come alive in full technicolor arrays. I'm the kind of guy that has a photographic, audiographic, etc, memory of television sitcoms. You know that one episode of Family Guy? I've memorized it. And therein lies my shame.

But when my day job collides with this fantasy reality it yields intriguing results. I was thinking, as I was told that we would have to come in on Saturday, as the deadlines to finish my scripts for the upcoming graphic novel loom yonder, I imagined afro-Peter Griffin materialize above me. "You outta time brotha!" he yells. Then I am jarred by a case packer fault. I return to the coldness, my winter storm.

It feels like you're caught in a blizzard, actually, when things begin to work out. I've never been caught in a blizzard before, but I imagine that it would be like my life is right now. Everything is lining up, finishing up, setting up for success, and now "life" fights it. I believe in sovereignty, of predestined will, so I pray everyday that God will help me, support me, get me closer to the end of the line. I ask myself, at this point why I work so hard. Is it worth it?

Thankfully I have a supportive wife, and a great team of people working with me. Go big or go home, man. Generally, at that point, things fall into place. Last night I was able to talk to Phil about the comic, for instance. Preliminary story concept work begins this month, and we will be going through all the scripts that I've written to find out what we can do to improve the story. (This is the part where I get a white board, and start madly scribbling stuff down, like when the guy discovers something important in a movie.) Revising plotting and narrative is my favorite part of building a story, so I am hopeful. Everything is raw and unsettled. People's lives are in your hands, and it's up to you whether to damn them or save them. Authors are like gods with insecurities and problems, so they say.

As of now, though, I've prepared 4 shorts, that will set up the reader to understand the universe the that the comic is set in. Tentatively, these finished pieces of art will appear along with a promo package of content around the first week of November. Cross your fingers! It will be a great time. Expect good things.



SW

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Snap Shot Theater: Files and Forms

White alabaster pillars stood up like ageless monoliths, sepulchers hungry for bureaucracy. Father Gara hurt his neck, craning to look at them. The Commission's signature, emblazoned lettering, shining through like gold in the afternoon haze could be seen from the interstate almost ten kilometers away. It lit the way for the wayward city of New Angels.

Grumbling, he was desperate for intervention. Sodder was coming to kill him. Why? to settle a debt for his younger brother. The police were apathetic to help him, so he aimed to consult the wings of his own organization. He had served in The Commission for nearly 50 years, starting as a page at age 5. They wouldn't dare turn him down. No, not the most respected man in the southern branch.

Cold air brushed upon his face, circulating ad infinitum. He took a number. Forty minutes later, a small asian woman wearing thickly framed maroon glasses took him down lengthy corridors, the inner sanctum. It was the finest of bureaucracies.

After sitting down at the desk he stared into the woman sitting across from him, smiling like a shark. Her name was generic, unnoticed. She would be there a long time. Reaching across the desk she limply took his hand and shook it, professional, yet uncommitted.

"Father Gara, Sanction Supreme of district 8, how are you today?" she began, slowly reciting his title with particular emphasis on the number "8."

"Eh," he shrugged, I've been better. I have a problem that needs handling."

"Regarding Singe?" she inquired, immediately. The file was already in her hands, as if conjuring it by magic. "He was an official sanction. You've done nothing wrong."

"I know," Father Gara said reassuringly, holding up his hand. "But now his brother is trying to kill me... this guy, Sodder."

"Yes, the car bombing. We took note of that, did our due diligence to apprehend the suspects. But retaliation is to be expected Father Gara," she reminded him. "Do you have a problem with this?"

"Well... I" he stuttered, "I don't see how that..."

"That is your signature," she said, handing him a yellowed document, worn with considerable age, "Is it not?"

"It is," Father Gara affirmed, growing agitated. "I was five years old for Christ sakes... You can't be..."

"Then we cannot do anything," she continued without missing a beat. "I'm sorry. Commission Resource can only do what is within the law."

Father Gara, speechless, shook his head angrily and stood up abruptly.

"20 years of payin' dues. This is the respect I get?" he shouted, pointing his crooked finger at her face. Blankly, she stared back at him, then stood up. Putting her hands on her hips she leaned into him seductively and pushed him back into the wall behind him.

"Are you threatening am agent of The Commission, Father Gara? I cannot help you. That is all. Good day."

"Good day, huh?" Father Gara said slowly. "Fine... that's just fine..."

Father Gara left the room, shutting the door behind him.