Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beyond Description

One of the things a writer struggles with is how much detail to include in a story.  We really want the reader to understand that great point we just made, the one that opens up the story's world and turns a good book into a great one.  So sometimes we'll go overboard and make the point with a sledgehammer, leaving no item without its own 500 word description.

In other words, we've decided to treat our readers like idiots.

I know a lot of smart people.  I even consider myself to be one on occasion.  And I get either very bored or very pissed when the book I'm reading just won't shut up about something.  I feel like screaming, I'm reading this to use my imagination and make the occasional leap of faith from one point to another.  Stop trying to explain it to me!

Overexplanation(is that even a word?) is, to me, the hallmark of an insecure writer.  We have to assume our readers can get the point we're trying to make, that they understand our symbolism and allusions just fine.  The Shining wouldn't have been anywhere as near a thrilling book if King had included lines like, "Danny opened up the door to room 217.  It was cold and dark, and the spirits filled the room.  There was blood everywhere and Danny could see a light from the bathroom.  When he walked in, a dead body was in the bathtub.  This was the ghost of some long departed guest, and she really wanted to kill Danny so that his psychic abilities would be absorbed by the Overlook."

King got us to understand the supernatural inclinations of the hotel without having to flat out tell us.  He managed to build the suspense without saying, "You should be scared right here!"  In other words, he treated us like adults and let us infer the information for ourselves.

However, while too much detail can kill the mood, complete lack of it can be just as bad and is a sign that either the writer is overconfident, or the writer doesn't understand the craft.  All of us have been guilty of this from time to time.  After all, we know the story and where it's going, so we take a lot of things for granted that maybe we should include.  JK Rowling understood that Harry Potter living as an orphan with his aunt and uncle provided the foundation for his character, but if she didn't go into detail about how the family bullied him or ignored him, we would've missed a vital aspect of his character.

When people say that they just can't write a full length story, it's usually because they're leaving out crucial details.  Then they get mad when the reader doesn't understand it.  Can't you see the obvious? we'll yell.  No, because we haven't provided the detail necessary to allow the very leap we want them to make.

Yeah, yeah, I know - I've talked in circles.  Provide detail, but not too much.  Let readers use their imagination, but don't leave a blank slate.  Blah blah blah.  As cliché as it might be to say, it is important to know how to strike a balance, thus creating a better story.

And that's what separates good writers from talentless hacks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Changing Tastes

There's an old saying that if you're the same person today that you were 20 years ago, you've wasted 20 years of your life.  To me, this also applies to our literary tastes, the ones we write and the ones we read.

Twenty years ago, I was a Sci-Fi nut.  As mentioned in an earlier post, Timothy Zahn got me back into reading books with Heir to the Empire, and novels containing alien/human fight scenes filled my library(or rather the particle board shelves that counted as my library).  The hours I spent in bookstores were almost exclusively limited to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.

However, as time has moved on, my tastes have shifted.  First, I've discovered that it's getting harder and harder to keep my interest with a Sci-Fi novel.  Science Fiction is usually either extremely well done or atrocious beyond description.  As my tastes have matured, some of the stuff that appealed to me years ago no longer holds my interest.  Some of it is sophomoric and has gaping holes in both plot basic science that anyone out of high school should be able to pick up on.

This is not to say that Sci-Fi holds no sway over me.  I still enjoy Tim Zahn Star Wars novels, am in the middle of reading The Lost Regiment series, and The Shiva Option by David Weber is on my to-do list.

Still, I've found myself drifting more and more towards horror and paranormal as time goes by.  The Shining went a long way towards getting me into the horror genre, and World War Z is an incredible read on zombies without getting too campy.  The TV series Supernatural does a great job in looking beyond the normal ghost story, and the well written vampire novels in existence do great when they stay out of the sparkly teen romance stuff.  I like thinking about what lies beyond this world and the philosophical ramifications are of free well versus destiny.  My own novels now lean this way, trying to blend supernatural elements into the larger questions of existence.

I think it's the "what if" quality of these books that draws me in, and that point of my tastes has never wavered, but it takes more than it used to for me to get invested in such a story.  Too many Sci-Fi stories these days focus so much on the world building that they don't delve into a larger plot.  It's as if the story ideas have played themselves out, so the authors are now just trying to paint a picture instead of telling a story.  However, horror and paranormal have left so many subjects open to interpretation that, besides being timeless, the scope and breadth of what's left is endless.  People of imagination are flocking to these types of stories, so good stories are inevitable, if only due to volume.

It'll be interesting to see how my tastes continue to evolve.  Maybe in ten years I'll start writing a pseudo-intellectual political thriller devoted to a second civil war in the United States.  Hey, now there's an idea...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writing Contests

How is an unpublished author supposed to get his or her name out there?  How does an unknown gain some kind of recognition, enough for people to take them seriously?  One way is to enter writing contests.

Writing contests can be intimidating.  Unlike a query letter and a few pages, in a writing contest, you're assured that at least one person will read your story.  But what if they don't like it?  What if you failed to submit your best work?  Well, putting yourself out there is the only way you'll ever know.  On the bright side, if you stink, you usually won't hear anything, so you can at least pretend that you just barely missed the cut.

The vast majority of contests are for short stories with a word count limit.  I've always found the short story constraining - it's difficult to tell a complete enough tale in so few words where someone actually gives a damn.  However, it can also challenge you to become a better writer, which I'm sure is part of the point.

I've entered six contests up to this point, starting in June of 2011, and I've been lucky enough to place in two of them(with one contest still being decided).  My very first short story, "The Collection Agent," made Honorable Mention in the Writer's Journal Write to Win! Contest for the October/November issue.  I was thrilled, especially since I spent all of an hour composing the story and submitted in on a lark.

The next few contests got more difficult.  I wrote two stories for Writers' Journal that felt a little awkward(side note - Writers' Journal has now gone defunct...not sure how that makes me feel), and both failed to place.  Why did they feel awkward?  Because I was trying to pull stories out of thin air and had little concept of the world they were supposed to take place in.  That was when I shifted my strategy.

I decided that my short stories would now come from worlds I'd already created in my head.  These were worlds where I'd either already written a novel, or I had enough of an idea that the concept could morph into a larger vision.  No, I didn't lift them straight out of already written stories.  I just grabbed a piece of that world and brought out a new element.  That made it so much easier than trying to start from scratch - I was already familiar with the characters and setting, so I didn't have to try and flush out a back story.

"Darvaza" placed as an Honorable Mention in the November Horror Writing Contest for Writer's Digest and was taken from the world I'd created in my vampire novel, Akeldama.  The issue for the story comes out in May, so I can't yet publish it on this site - Writer's Digest has the right of first publication - but I will eventually put it on here.  Another that is still out there came from the novel I'm currently writing and is centered on the opening scene where the main character dies and is taken into the afterlife.  I plan on submitting two more stories for the Writer's Digest May Short Story Contest, one in Horror and one in Sci-fi(the first will come from Salvation Day and will center on one of the character's descent into Hell, while the second one will come out of a yet unwritten novel about the human race trying to escape a dying Earth).

The biggest benefit to entering contests is that someone will read my stuff.  In other words, I don't get stopped by the dreaded query letter.  My biggest complaint has always been, not to sound immodest here, that I believe people will enjoy my stuff if I can just get them to read it.  Hopefully a few more of these will get some accolades so that I can gain the attention of an agent or publisher.  That, of course, is the ultimate goal.  Plus, it's always nice to have someone besides your friends and family tell you that you have some talent.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Do You Define Success?

The key question for most of us - how will you know if you're a successful writer?  By what standard will you judge yourself?  Do you want to be fabulously wealthy, with legions of adoring fans?  Do you want generations yet unborn to speak your name with a reverent whisper?  Do you care if you're forgotten?

The answer, of course, is up to each of us as we write.  First, let me take on some of the more, um, idealistic amongst us.

A lot of writers have dreams of being famous.  They want people to fawn all over them and mob them when they go to a book signing(at a venue where they are the exclusive draw, of course).  These people are probably writing for the wrong reason, assuming they'll ever finish a novel.  I say that since most of this type spend their time daydreaming about how they'll act with fame rather than actually writing a book.

Ask the layperson on the street how many authors they can name.  What will they say?  Stephen King!  JK Rowling!  Stephanie Meyer!  Dean Koontz!  James Patterson!  Um...lemme think...I know some more...

Outside of those few folks, there aren't very many famous ones.  There are some that those of us who are avid readers would know(Harry Turtledove, David Weber, and William Fortschen come to mind for me), but those are niche authors - famous within their subset, but not extremely well known by most folks.  The truth is that very few authors become famous, so if that's how you define success, good luck.  Not to say it absolutely won't happen, but you've got about as good a shot at winning the lottery.

Speaking of winning the lottery...

Some writers are motivated by the riches they'll earn.  I'd love to get that $1 million dollar book deal, with promises of lots of lucrative advances for future novels like Nicholas Sparks got, but that's the exception.  After cuts by agents, publishing houses, and bookstores, you might make a paltry 15% off your sales(before taxes), so you better be topping the NY Times Bestseller List, or at least coming close, if you want to be able to afford that villa in France.

Again, not to say that you shouldn't strive for it, but please be realistic about your odds.  A large number of writers starve, and most who like creature comforts - like shelter, food, and heat - have second jobs(and sometimes a third job) in order to make ends meet.

Some people define success as a writer a finishing a novel.  For me, success would be getting a novel on bookstore shelves and having people enjoy what I wrote.  Yes, I'll work my ass off in all the things necessary to get those Dan Brown like rewards, but I'll consider myself successful if I can get a total stranger to plunk down $10-$15 at a Barnes & Noble for one of my books, and then that person recommends me to a friend.

Of course, if I can find a way to write for a living, that'd be awesome too.  It doesn't necessarily mean that I need the Edinburgh castle that JK Rowling has, but being able to sit in front of my computer and type out the stories that flitter through my imagination would be a dream come true.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Progress Report

I thought I'd take this opportunity to discuss the novel I'm currently working on. No, I don't yet have a title(although the working title is Haunting), but most of my stuff usually doesn't get a title until it's finished and I have a better feel for the overall work.

We've all heard ghost stories, whether around a campfire or spun by our favorite author, but how many of them tell the story from the ghost's point of view?  While reading The Shining, I wondered what the motivation of the Overlook Hotel was.  Surely it had to be something beyond "I'm just evil and want to kill everyone."  That spurred me towards thinking that a story told from that angle might interest people.

The protagonist in my novel is an 18 year old high school senior who expected to be heading off to Carolina the following year for college.  He had a family that he sometimes got along with, a steady girlfriend who he wanted to get more intimate with, and a car that was a piece of garbage, but at least it gave him some sense of freedom.  However, all of his dreams were cut short when someone crossed the yellow line and forced him into a metal pole(and the metal pole forced his mangled body onto the sidewalk).

He gets met by a spirit calling himself a designated mentor and promising to show him the ropes of the afterlife so that the main character can move beyond Earth and to his eternal resting place.  However, being killed so unexpectedly in such a violent manner has thrown the main character's spirit out of balance.  In order to achieve that balance, he must avenge himself on the one who caused his death.

That's the basic premise.  Instead of talking about eerie noises and ghostly footprints, I thought I'd examine what the ghost is doing to create that kind of stuff.  What does he factor into things, and what mistakes does he make along the way?  I'll be throwing in a few twists and turns to get to my endpoint, and if nothing else, I'll have a different take on the normal ghost story.

I'm writing it from a first person point of view and have categorized it as YA(Young Adult) paranormal.  The most difficult part of that is making sure my language, which is usually worse than a sailor's, doesn't cross the line.  I'm also going to try to keep the final product to around 65,000 words(half the length of my first book, and two-thirds the length of my second).

I've completed the first five chapters(roughly 10,000 words) and am sending it off to a friend without comment on what I thinks works in it and the parts I've struggled with.  I need candid and honest feedback on what I've got, so imparting any preconceived impressions would defeat the purpose.  With luck, I can finish this work by the middle of the Summer and have it ready to go for the Pitchapalooza that'll occur in Hawaii over the Labor Day weekend.  Who knows - maybe this'll be the first novel I've written that breaks through.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blogging Consistently Is...


That's right, I said it.  I broke the cardinal rule about blogging - I whined a little.

Don't get me wrong.  I love to write this blog.  I enjoy trying to figure out how to put into words my thoughts and feelings for the day.  I like it when I get comments and can have some kind of interaction with those who've taken the time to read it.  However, it's a lot more taxing than I thought it would be.

Simply putting words on the screen isn't hard.  Any imbecile can do that.  Watch:

I have a dog.  I like my dog.  He is nice and licks me.  I feed him every day and take him on a walk.  He is yellow and his tongue always sticks out of the side of his mouth.  He likes to take my other dog's toys.  He can't stand it when I am petting the other dog and not him.

Did any of you make it to the end of that paragraph?  I'd be shocked if you did, because it was both insanely boring and written at the comprehension level of a four year old.  And that's part of the point - writing is easy, but making it enjoyable and interesting to someone else takes effort.  Let's face it - most people hate putting in the effort required to make something stand out.  Most of us, myself included, would rather have the accolades fall upon us in a shower of glory, for, after all, we deserve it simply by being alive.

First, you have to plan out what you're going to write.  Will this topic be interesting?  Can I write enough to capture the spirit of what I want the reader to feel?  Or will I go way overboard and bore them to tears with my rambling?

Then you have to actually write it.  I know this sounds simple, but those that go out and do it stand out from the crowd.  As I discussed in one of my first posts, a great number of people say they want to write.  Let me repeat that sentiment - a lot of people like to say they want to write.  Since I came out of my shell and let people know I'm a writer, I've been amazed by the number of people who say they are going to write that next great American novel.  However, only a tiny fraction do so because most won't just sit down and write it.  It's the same here, since most people won't sit at the keyboard and put down on paper what they jabber on to their friends about.

Finally, you have to do it on a consistent basis.  It's one thing to sit down every couple of weeks and write a few things before returning to your exciting life.  However, you'll never build an audience by being inconsistent or flaky, so you need to put out new stuff on a regular basis so people will stop by every so often and read your stuff.  You need to get past that long day you've had and that headache that just won't go away and write.  You have to say, "I know the latest episode of Wipeout is on, but I haven't done my blogging for the day, so I must shun the escape of TV and pump out my next post."  This can be difficult when you think that no one will kill you if you don't post just this once.  But I've heard more than one person say that writing is like going to the gym - do it every day so you can get into a routine, but you'll discover that the more you say you'll rest just today, the easier it is to be lazy the next day as well.

I blog because I enjoy writing and this gives me a break from my novels, as well as a way to continue to work on the craft without delving into plotlines and character development, but it can be challenging at times.  Still, our readers deserve nothing less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Self Publishing - A Step Towards Success or a Cry of Desperation?

As I said in my last post, the book industry is in transition.  The hard part about things that are in transition is in figuring out which direction they'll choose when all is said and done.  Unfortunately, my crystal ball is in the shop, and I've proven remarkably bad in the past at making predictions without it.

The latest trend has been towards self publishing - you know, forgoing all that nasty agent and publishing house stuff and putting your stuff out on the market yourself.  I must admit that when you've stared down the barrel of two dozen rejections, taking such a path is tempting.  However, it's also very risky.

There are about 250,000 titles published in the US each year through traditional publishers.  However, there are nearly 750,000 self published titles available.  In the past, these were little vanity adventures where the author would be lucky to sell a 50 copies, usually to close friends and family.  Anyone who self published that wanted to one day get famous as a writer, rarely, if ever, brought up their attempts at self publishing because it was assumed that you only went that route if you sucked.  Reputations have been destroyed this way, so most who self published did so in the knowledge they would never go anywhere.

In the past five years or so, however, that line of thinking has changed.  With the Internet and the advent of e-books, self publishing and then reaching an audience has become even easier.  I can think of two books off the top of my head that were self published and have done great:  The Shack and Mentally Incontinent.

The Shack by William Paul Young is about a guy who loses his daughter to a psychotic child killer and finds God in the grieving process.  Young wrote the story with no intention of publishing it, but interest from his family led him to try.  However, no one would give him a hearing, so he maxed out several credit cards and eventually made the New York Times Best Seller List.  There are over 7 million copies in print now, and there's even talk about a movie.

Joe Peacock wrote a bunch of humorous stories about his extraordinary life on the Internet and decided to publish Mentally Incontinent as a result.  It was extremely successful, and even led to a second book with a traditional publisher, Penguin.  However, Peacock decided that the level of control he relinquished in the process made the juice not worth the squeeze, so his new book, which should be published by the end of March, is self published(and I wait with baited breath for my autographed copy).

These guys are the exception to the rule, but then isn't any successful author an exception?  With self publishing, you have to take full control of marketing, signings, distribution, etc, but unless your last name is King or Turtledove, don't most writers have to take on the bulk of the burden for marketing their work?

I have looked into the self publishing route, but I'm not there yet.  I might be in a few years, because my stuff will be in print, but I want to see if I can get traditionally published first.  However, as more and more folks turn down my work based on a query letter rather than the actual novel, the self publishing option becomes more attractive.  And with the major publishing houses losing control of authors and their work, it could be the way things are going to be done.

If the train is pulling out of the station, maybe I should climb aboard.  I haven't jumped on yet, but I'm staring hungrily at the tracks...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Books in Transition

Books are in a transitional period now, and no one is really sure what is going to come out on the far end.  In the mid-90s, you could barely drive down the street without passing a bookstore.  Now?  Now you need to hunt far and wide to find something to your tastes.  Borders Books is gone, and I find that Barnes & Noble stores are getting increasingly more difficult to locate.  The store near me, for example, is tucked away in the back corner of a very large mall on Oahu, and if I hadn't googled it, I would know it was there.

Independent bookstores are also becoming more and more niche markets.  There are several here in Hawaii, and a good 75% of the store space is devoted to Hawaiiana.  I've seen the same thing in bookstores in Seattle, Kansas City, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Nashville.  They cater more and more to not just local authors, which can be a great thing for those of us trying to break into the local market, but to regional literary fare, which is detrimental is that's not what you specialize in.  I write all kinds of things - horror, paranormal, science fiction, political thrillers - but I doubt my stuff would fit very much into the stacks where most of the titles are about country music history or how the great cattle drives led American expansion in the 1800s.

This isn't to say the places I've been in that sell books aren't loaded with people browsing.  When I go to the local Barnes & Noble on a Saturday(yes, I'm a dork), I see plenty of folks picking up titles or sitting and reading.  I'll be in an airport and the book seller always has people there thumbing through books while they wait for their next flight.  So what's the deal?

Put simply, this isn't where people are buying their books.  Booksellers, for all their pomp and circumstance about preserving the written word, exist to make money.  If people won't buy, then they can't stay in business.  And honestly, when was the last time you picked up the book you're reading at a brick and mortar bookstore?  A few big things have changed recently.

1.  Amazon

Amazon has allowed us no hassle access to books.  Further, by posting new and used titles and allowing others to set prices, they've reduced the cost for the rest of us.  I'll go browse books at a store, and, if I find one I like, I'll by it off Amazon at home.  Further, I never have to worry about Amazon being out of stock of something I'm seeking.  There is nothing more frustrating than being excited about a title you've heard about and then hearing the clerk say either, "We don't carry that" or "I'm sorry, but it's out of stock at the moment.  Don't worry - we'll get some more in four weeks."

2.  e-books

Whether it be on a Kindle, Nook, or some other device, e-books have created a convenience that brick and mortar stores can't compete with.  With regular books, unless it's something you just want to keep to read over and over again, you end up either selling your stock every so often to a used bookstore, or you throw them out so they no longer clutter your shelves.  Not anymore.

We can download the latest best seller to our device and read it at our leisure, certain it won't clog our house.  And its lack of bulk allows us to bring multiple titles with us to the park, on a trip, or to the bathroom.  A lot of people won't bring a book along because they might not be in the mood for that particular title, but with a wide selection on e-books, that's no longer a problem.  I personally prefer the visceral feel of a book with paper and all, but the immediacy of the e-book is hard to ignore, and one I've given in to myself.  Some things are just fun reads, or might be things I don't know if they're worth cluttering up my home, and e-books provide a way to avoid the "commitment" of a traditional book.

3.  A trend towards self-publishing

A lot of folks are finding that the market isn't as closed to them as it once was.  The Age of the Internet has opened the door to a lot more self publishing, and e-books will only increase that.  This is not to discuss the merits of it(I'll tackle that in the next post), but to merely observe that it's happening.

All of this has made publishers and outlets much more cautious in what they'll devote energy to, making it concurrently harder for a nobody to break in.  It's a new period in the industry, much as it was for trains when airline travel became more accessible and widely promoted, and the industry will either have to figure out how to adapt, or it'll be overtaken by what replaces it in the hearts and minds of the readers.  I don't expect things to settle for another decade or so, but it's going to be a wild ride.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Literary Influences

We all have authors we love to read, and as writers, we all have those whose styles we like to emulate.  This is my list:

When I was a graduating from high school, I picked up the newly released Heir to the Empire and fell in love with it.  Yes, I'd read a decent amount as a teenager, but I didn't have any particular author I followed.  Zahn changed that.  The topic, Star Wars, was something I already loved, and Tim Zahn brought the world to life in breathtaking ways.  The main bad guy, Grand Admiral Thrawn, was a villain you almost wanted to root for(in later life, as a Soldier, he'd have been someone I'd have loved to have served under), and the action flowed as easily as oil from the Exxon Valdez.  I sat in my bed at night and read until two in the morning, unable to put the books away.  To this day, he's still the only writer that can do Star Wars worth a damn.

Alan Dean Foster is another I picked up shortly after high school.  I read his Trilogy of the Damned and waited anxiously for each new installment.  The books never made the best seller list, but they were a fun jaunt through the Sci-Fi genre, and they read easily.  Quozl, another I picked up from him in college, had the same fun feel and flowed from plot point to plot point, making it easy to follow when you weren't looking for War & Peace.

I think JK Rowling is an inspiration to almost every writer out there.  A single mom who wrote in a coffee shop, her books were turned down by a dozen publishers before catching on with a small publishing house in England.  Of course, Scholastic books bought it later, and we all got to enjoy the adventures of Harry Potter.  To be fair, I made fun of people who read it before I picked up a single book, but on a dare from a buddy, I read #3 and soon couldn't put them down.  In fact, I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in one day, then duplicated the feat with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  It's easy to get lost in the magical world, and her style lets you set yourself free.  I don't know anyone who has read one of her books that hasn't been enthusiastic about them.

Finally, Stephen King has recently been an influence on my writing.  King is hit or miss for me - either right on target, or wildly off the mark.  While I enjoyed the short story 1408, I couldn't get into Salem's LotIt chilled me to the bone, but the meandering descriptions in The Dark Tower series left me bored.  However, it was one of his earliest novels, The Shining, that hooked me.  I was looking for how to build suspense in my novel Salvation Day, so I decided to read what I'd heard was the preeminent book that demonstrated that.  Boy, they weren't kidding.  You read along, just following the story, and all of the sudden you're in the middle of the terror, and you have no idea how you got there.  A masterful build up, and I've gone back many times to get the style down.  King's latest, 11/22/63, is another awesome novel that takes our world and stands it on its head.

Who are your literary influences?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing Distractions

OK, you're all ready to go.  You've got your chair set to exactly the right height, a cold beverage by your side, and ideas are flowing through your brain in such a way that Stephen King himself would be proud.  What's to stop you from writing that masterpiece now?

That's right, the dreaded distraction, and they're everywhere.  I want to sit down and write the next 2000 words, but I first need to check my Facebook page.  I'm ready to nug through that plot point I've been dying to make, but look - someone has sent me a bunch of photos of cats that look like Hitler.

And so on, and so on, and so on...

Every writer that has ever had success has found some way to cut out distractions.  Some play loud music for white noise, forcing them to shut it out of their heads so they can focus on the task at hand.  Others lock themselves in a white room and refuse to leave until they've written 2500 words.  I've known people who've unplugged their modem so they aren't tempted to bring up the Internet for a few minutes.  The list of techniques is endless.

Regardless of what you do, you have to find a way to force distractions out of your head so you can focus on writing the damn story.  For me, I've always written best when I have no access to TV or the Internet.  However, that's only happened either when I'm in between homes or I'm out of the country(which is more often than you might think).  I get bored easily sitting around doing nothing, but a mildly entertaining TV show has the potential to drag me into hours of, "Well, maybe just this last show."  The web has the same potential with, "Well, maybe just this last website."

I'm good at getting a lot done when I break the inertia and get into it, so my key when I'm home is to force myself to sit down and begin.  Writing is both fun and addictive once it gets going, so if I can just get into a rhythm, I'm fine.  Therefore, I'll have to sit down and just start writing, trying my best not to think of what's just a mouse click away.

But sometimes, it can be so darned hard...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Back from the dead!

First, let me apologize to the masses who checked this blog for the past couple of weeks, waiting with breathless anticipation for the wisdom provided within, only to be disappointed to find nothing new.  As my last post stated, I was on a business trip from Hawaii to Kansas(yes, Hawaii to Kansas...in January), and both my work computer and personal laptop shit themselves.  Then, as I was looking forward to coming home and using my brand new computer to pontificate with again, that one went tits up too.

My new baby had been infected with malware, despite Macafee anti-virus being on and updated(extraneous note - MACAFEE SUCKS!).  So Sherry took it to Best Buy to get fixed.  They promised 3-5 days.  At the six day mark, she called and they told her, "Sorry, it's not done yet."  Five days after that, as I'm about to drive down to Best Buy and begin formulating excuses for why PTSD caused me to snap and take out half the Geek Squad for being completely incompetent, we called again, and the lying sack of shit on the other end said, "Oh yeah, it just came off the bench and should be ready by the time you get down here."  Problem solved, right?

While I checked out of this bothersome situation, the clerk at the register let it slip that the computer had actually been ready for five days, but since some underwhelmed minimum wage employee forgot to close it out in the system, they never called us.  I was mad for two reasons:
1.  They finished and probably would never have let us know if we hadn't called again.
2.  The schmuck I spoke with earlier lied to me about it being finished because he was covering his ass and hoping I wouldn't go psychopathic on the phone with him.
OK, rant done.  I feel better.

Anyway, I noticed several things during my "down time."  First, it came to me that I spend a lot of time on the computer, maybe more than I should.  While I had no computer, I rediscovered several books I love, played with my daughter, took walks with my wife, and did a great deal of stuff that doesn't require a modem connection.  Second, I felt really off rhythm.  A guy on the blogroll on the right, Joe Peacock, put it well when he said that blogging is like going to the gym - you're conditioned to go when you're consistent, and the more you skip, the easier it gets to skip.  I might take a few days to get back on track, but I'll push through and get back to blogging about writing.

On another note, I've added a new website to my blogroll -  http://khanrahan.com/.  Kevin Hanrahan is a good friend of mine and is writing about the dogs he's worked with during his time in the Army.  I expect his novel, Paws on the Ground, to be a great success, and I hope you'll check out his website.