I need to be better about this, I swear.
So, what's happened since the last blog entry?
1. My father passed in March 2022. That has sucked.
2. I got my PhD in December 2019. That did not suck.
3. I have remained unemployed since then. That has sucked.
4. I have dedicated myself, for now, to a writing career. That has only moderately sucked.
5. I've gone to therapy and started brain medications. That has not sucked.
6. I've published another book, a serious one, and will likely publish two more things by the end of the year. Hopefully those do not suck.
It's been a lot, but I'm going to try to be more regular with updates here.
...posted anything here. Thank you, Staind.
Anyway, hello! It's been far too long (seriously, well over a year? Get it together, man) since I've posted up anything here. If you're reading this, you probably are up-to-date on everything already but, just in case, let's run it down.
1) Ruben's Cube Alaska: Bullet Point 2: Judgment Day: This Time It's Real was finished, edited, and published back in September of 2017. I like the book and am proud of it. It's a little different from the others, but it's still insane and all that good stuff. Kind of like a third kid.
2) I've finished my coursework for my doctorate. This semester will just be teaching, research, and reading for my comprehensive exams. I don't know if I'll have more or less time to write, but we'll see.
3) In terms of other books, therein lies the not-so-great news. To be perfectly honest, anything even remotely in the queue is a long time coming still. I have several books in the Roboverse that are bouncing around, all of which slot into different parts of the timeline. I have a fantasy book that just won't go away. I've been looking at a pirate book of mine again and it's more salvageable than I originally thought. I even have a noir book that fits into the Roboverse somehow, not to even mention the Westerns that are in the gestation phase. My point is: I have a lot of ideas, but not a lot of momentum.
I'll try to keep this more updated from now on. I like having a place to put my thoughts, even if statistically very few are reading them.
Stay frosty (or warm, if you're up north with me or on the East Coast with its bomb cyclone weirdness).
Yeah, so that 'next entry' thing was a lie. That'll be up at some point. Today, though, is the one of the most pressing and debilitating things that any writer can go through: Writer's Block. The Big Blank. Nothing On The Page Syndrome. Uh...Brain...Fail...Problems...right. You get the idea. That point in time where that pipeline to your creative zone is sealed tight and you can't figure out a way to get past it.
You've tried drinking but you've gone past the sweet spot and just can't physically write anymore.
You've tried working out but you realize you hate working out and that every moment forcibly sweating is self-driven agony.
You've tried sleeping but that turns into sleeping a whole lot which isn't super healthy for you.
You've tried...well, everything. Not sure what else you'd try, really.
What you have now is a choice of two options, both of which are valuable and, in fact, helpful, depending on the context: you can force yourself or you can walk away.
By walk away, I mean for a day or two. Step back from the situation. You're too deep and unable to see clearly, Detective. I want your badge and gun! You're relieved of duty, kid! Uh. Yeah. Walk away, take a reset period, then hit it again.
Otherwise, you can just force yourself to put SOMETHING down. It may be awful. It may not even be part of the story - but it's something and that could help to prime the pump as it were.
No matter what, not knowing what to write is awful. At least it's not impostor syndrome, right?
Next Time: Impostor Syndrome
Son of a bitch!
Next up, we have what for some people can be the toughest part of the entire process: coming up with character names!
For names, it all really depends on what you're intending your book to be. If you want it to be some garbage tween-lit book, you have to use names that sound exotic but also safe, like Bella or Sebastian or Magrad the Impaler, Mistress of the Nightrealm. Names that really mean very little and can be glossed over within the text.
For a more serious, actual readable-quality book, this can be trickier. Many people get hung up on this and for good reason. If you're going to write a 200-page exploration of the human condition told by a schizophrenic heroin addict with pyromaniacal tendencies, you don't want to call that character Suzy Blaze or Mikey Starts-Fires-For-Sexual-Pleasure. Those are just a bit too silly to really connect with readers. On the other hand, if you're writing a light romantic novel about a meet-cute at a New York deli, names like Blood Darkfang and Silencio Magnifico also probably aren't appropriate monikers.
(By the way, all these names are now copyrighted so...hands off.)
The fact is, names can make or break a book. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to start writing the characters and letting them go. The names can often come organically.
Well, Stambleputz McGrudy was organic too so...maybe not that.
Next Entry: Characters
One of the most common - if not THE most common - questions that writers of any stripe, from Rothfuss and Martin to myself and the word criminal that wrote Twilight, receive is this (read this out loud in a curious voice with the intention of really only wanting a one-sentence response): how do you come up with your ideas?
For the sentient raccoon that 'wrote' 50 Shades of Grey, it was writing Twilight porn, changing the names, adding in...uh...I don't know, an extension cord and edible condoms?..., and marketing it as 'new BDSM' for bored, sexless housewives. I mean, it WORKED, so it worked but still.
For me, it's a bit different. It comes out of nowhere.
I could be in a bar, drinking a good beer, and maybe the way the waitress walks sparks a description in my head. Something like 'she had a sway to her hips that promised a fun night and a sore morning'. Or, you know, something less hacky.
I could be at a LAN and come up with one word out of nowhere: warehouse - and it turns into the basis of the entire universe. Or at that same LAN, I could be running a game of Fiasco and have it come out so dark and creepy that I go home and write for eight hours afterwards, not sleeping at all.
There is no real rhyme or reason to it. It just happens when it likes, usually when it's inconvenient. I mean, if I'm making out with a girl I'm dating, I don't...hahahahahahahhahaha. Okay. Sorry, couldn't resist.
My point is that there is no real way to come up with ideas aside from just...thinking. Take inspiration from a walk around a park, sure. Pound a glass of scotch and write away. Base characters off of exes, because hell, they deserve it. Whatever works, use it!
Next Entry: Names
I was talking to a friend and colleague of mine today and the conversation came around to building an audience and connecting, oftentimes by blogging. I realized, during the course of this, that I have been severely - one could even say totally - deficient in that sense, especially here on MY OWN WEBSITE. That changes today.
Starting today, I'm going to do my best to get an entry up at least every other day, if not more. These entries are going to be behind-the-scenes, process sorts of things.
To start with, take a look at that red Moleskine! Isn't it slick? It's packed full of Post-Its and scribbles of ideas. There are outlines and half-formed concepts. There are even a few pages of straight-up text, which are fragments that could eventually - okay, likely won't but still - become the basis for entirely new stories.
In short, that little red book holds some of my most important and original notes. I bring it with me whenever I go on long trips or to different places. I like being ready, even if it's just for a few little puffs of inspiration. I've had that book with me since I moved to Nashville way back in 2009 and it's seen a hell of a time since then.
To be fair, it's been a bit phased out lately, simply due to the convenience and accessibility of OneNote Online. Being able to zip open the phone and type a few words is super easy, but there's something to be said for the old-fashioned scribbling down of ideas when they come. Speaking of, idea generation will be in the next entry.
For now, I'll leave you with this. When it comes to writing, be like Mike and 'just do it'. Okay, maybe it's not quite that easy and that may be a bit more pithy a statement than is accurate but...I forgot where I was going with this. Oh, right! If you want to write, do it. Put down some notes or just go for it. Worst case scenario, it's trash but you still did something.
Next Entry: Idea Generation
The new website is finally up and I have to say that I'm very excited about it. It's the first time that this thing has looked professional or even tolerable beyond a third-grader's 2000 MySpace page level. Keep an eye on this space for updates, posts, and other little things. Welcome!