Dishwasha!

I feel like I’m pretty old to be starting this whole writing thing sometimes. I know that people change careers all the time. They spend ten, fifteen, twenty years doing other peoples’ taxes or delivering babies or some other impressive “real” job type thing they can look at and call a career. Then they have an epiphany about
spending time with their family, or how they got into the line of work they’re in because their parents pushed them into it.

Me? My resume reads like a high school dropout’s for the most part, though I have a BS in Biology. My parents never pushed me into anything, really. For the most part, they were absent or too busy scrambling to make enough money to put food on the table and clothes in the closet to really do any actual parenting. Optimus Prime, Snake Eyes and Lion-o kept me out of trouble, though, showed me how to treat people and not to take drugs. And people say TV is worthless. (I did also watch healthy doses of Nova and Wild America, etc, so it was truly educational at times.)

The point is, I was born to be a writer, it just took me a long time to get around to being anything like serious about it. I have a wide range of interests without apparently being capable of being an expert in anything. I’m periodically reminded of a scene from Dragon, the Bruce Lee Story in which Bruce is handed a wad of cash by his boss and given two scenarios: He can take the money, go to school and make something of himself or run around spending it until he was gone and come back to her for the job he had now and spend the rest of his life paying her back as a ‘dishwasha.’

I’ve been a dish washer, and a gas station worker, donut flinger, overnight innkeeper, and all those taught me things about life but also tried to suck my life from me. With writing, at least for now, I’m my own boss, working when and where I do so best. I may not be making ‘bank’ as the kids used to say, but I’m working toward something in which I can express myself and keep myself at the same time. For the first time I feel like I’m not just paying my dues, but learning and growing and moving toward a state wherein I can make some kind of difference beyond making hot coffee and spotless dishes.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts, as well as the chance to see that what I’ve gone through has some value.

Why I Won’t Be Writing for the Dark Crystal Anytime Soon

While I’m sure Jim was proud of the original product, I have to doubt he would have wanted this ‘contest’ to be run the way it is. What’s my problem? It’s that it’s set up as a blood, sweat and tears lottery. There is one winner and everyone else who sends a submission… forfeits their ideas. Yup, in perfect Hollywood form, the group running the contest claims every word that every writer sends them on the grounds that the company owns the copyright, so clearly you can’t use this work elsewhere.

I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure if I put my mind to planning, plotting, writing and editing a serious entry (a 40,000 word novella), I’ll be creating a few creatures, characters, etc, expanding the Dark Crystal world in ways no one else would quite approach it. This means my voice has value. If, as an artist, a writer, a thinker, I didn’t believe this, then I wouldn’t bother trying to sell my work to magazines and anthologies. I wouldn’t be trying to punch up a slew of novels to send to market. I would just post my stories on the Internet and hoped someone would someday look at them.

While the final product would be something inextricably Dark Crystal, that same product could be mined, deconstructed, if you will, for ideas for other works outside that world, and unbound by existing copyright. And it’s my right to scavenge such a piece, to redesign physical forms, to take the heart of the story and make it something that in no way belongs to anyone else. And yet, if you do decide to use (steal) my work and publish it with minor tweaks, giving me nothing at all in the way of recompense, where does that leave all of those wonderful not- DC bits? Used up, burned at the altar of corporate greed. Jim would be ashamed to have his name associated with such tactics.

The Dream that was Sleep…

I was going to write about how sleep impacts my creativity, coming up with initial concepts for stories and resolving stumbling blocks. I’ll likely get back to that at some point, but for now, I’d like to take a moment and investigate how a lack of sleep influences my process. I have been given new opportunity to revisit this recently with the birth of my son, Oliver. He’s just ten days old today, so sleep isn’t a big part of our life. He’s up every hour or two demanding attention, generally in the form of feeding and changing diapers.

I’m also at my part time, seasonal job of scoring standardized tests. This can be a brain-draining position at the best of times, but these days, I struggle to keep my eyes focused and open. I also find random turns of phrase and odd juxtapositions of concepts thrown out there by students more humorous, but also more thought-provoking. ‘What if’ while perfectly cogent is one thing. When the world isn’t quite standing straight, it’s something else again. I’ve never done drugs, but I can guess that there’s been more than one popular one that mimics these effects…

I’ve always appreciated puns more than the average person, but this altered state makes working through speech and text a bit tougher, a bit slower, which gives my mind more time to go down those side avenues. This gives me a new harvest of idea seeds and twists that might not normally occur to me. I have seen this phenomenon once before, while working my way through college by working overnights at gas stations. I had thought the Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines I had been reading on the shifts were the source of my inspiration, but perhaps they had a boost from the Sandman’s arch enemy: The Caffeinator!

This is somewhat helpful with my latest endeavor to produce ‘bizarro’ fiction, an over the top, sometimes offensive, always chaotic genre I wrote about last time. I’ve also come up with an idea for some little kids picture books. I’ve been looking for something a bit different, and have, in my near-walking-dream-state come across just the thing. Or so I think right now. These things always take on a different complexion in the morning.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

If you’re a writer, or have interviewed extensively for a job, or a school, or have ever asked someone for a date, you know that pit that forms in your stomach when the moment of response arrives. It’s made up of self-doubt, fear, anxiety over how much you needed that thing for which you’d tried out. After time, experience, many such pits forming, you get used to it and everything is less dramatic, less traumatic, because trying over and again tells you one swing of the bat does not a baseball career make. (Note that, sports analogies won’t happen often on this page.)

This effect can be greatly enhanced by juxtaposition with another event, something which messes with your state of emotion or consciousness, and therefore your defenses. I had just taken a shower, having slept relatively well. Thus, I was at the start of my day. The content of this email could, right at the start, put a good or bad spin on the following fifteen hours. I hesitated only momentarily before opening the message, though. Am I growing up? Have I sent enough stories out that a rejection won’t make me feel like the sky is falling? (Kids story references, however, are likely on the increase in my life, as my fiancée and I have just had a little boy.) I kind of hope so.

Luckily, I’m saved from truly testing myself in this regard, as my steampunk superhero story, Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa, has been accepted by Dark Oak Press’s anthology “Capes & Clockwork” which should be available by the end of the year!

Success! Or something like it.

My computer started messing up a couple of Fridays ago, running slowly, taking forever to load webpages and open programs or dialogs. It definitely inhibited my productivity and set me to a bad mood. I’ve run some antivirus software of different flavors. Back in the day, you had Norton and McAfee and they just worked, or mostly not, just arguing with different parts of the valid computer system… but I digress…

Now, there are many options and the old workhorses aren’t what they used to be. You’re also not just looking for ‘viruses,’ but ‘malware’ of all sorts, spyware and Trojans and other types, many of which have their own specialized programs to combat them. You no longer need a security guard making sure no one’s sneaking something into the pudding on the cafeteria line. You need an army!

I downloaded a few of these programs, free versions for now, because that’s where I live. As a writer without much in the way of a day job, especially a regular one, I have to take what I can get when I can get it.

That brings me back around to writing. That afternoon, I got a notification of acceptance of one of my stories (ok, so I was lurking on my Submittable page because I knew one of the places I’d submitted to through them had a relatively short turn around and the average response time was nigh.)

I was psyched, as I have had little enough success as to still warrant high fives every sale, but not enough to warrant special dinners or anything because that would eat more money than I’d be making from the sale 😉 I went to check my email and saw I had a message with the subject of “your contract” and was pleased that the editor was so on the ball. I opened it, only to find that this was a contract for a different story.

Needless to say, I was doubly psyched and ill thoughts toward the world and my computer faded away pretty quickly. I am holding those links up my sleeve for now as the stories aren’t out yet. I will say one will be on a website, later to be collected in an anthology, and the other will be in an anthology due out by the end of the summer. Both are fun little pieces and I look forward to some feedback on them as well as getting more sales soon!

Is it just my imagination or…?

When I was a kid, the comic book world was introduced to a Superman from another dimension, a “Bizarro” world where people said the opposite of what they meant and everything was recognizable, but a bit off. Think Alice in Wonderland, but often with even more adult themes than a simple transition to an adult world which sometimes makes no sense to the young.

Apparently, this is now (I’m sure it’s been around a while, but it’s just now seeping into my world) a genre of writing. It’s absurdist, extremist, and sometimes straight-out wacky. You can have characters with barbershop poles or gum ball machines of heads (think old school Egyptian gods where human bodies had falcon or alligator heads).

The rules of the world are often a bit different in fantasy fiction, that’s the point, but in these tales, the lines between just about anything you can imagine and what makes sense are crumpled up like a terrible first draft and tossed into a pile on the floor which somehow makes itself into a new clothes dryer for your wet socks, which spits any other article of clothing out… See what I mean?

There are nuances I’ve no doubt missed in my limited exposure, but I’ve found a few markets for this kind of fiction, and begun building stories around some pretty out there concepts. I think I need to do some reading in the area to really get something appropriate. Anyone out there know of a good place to start or have a favorite “Bizarro” story or novel?

If this post itself is a bit less than coherent, I plead the first… First child, that is. His mama and I have been at the hospital the last few days welcoming him into the world and cramming on the first steps of this parenting thing with the help of some nurses and the Baby Instruction Manual. I can’t claim him as reason for my erratic posts over the last month or two. I’m just lazy and easily distracted.