I’ve been writing elsewhere, but not here. I want to start writing here more, but I can’t talk about most of the projects I’m working on…
So here’s what I’m going to do. Give me topics, and I will write about them. It’s like formspring, but likely to be way more fun.
I just read an article at io9 called “How to get John Scalzi and David Gerrold to Take a Restraining Order Out On You,” about people sending unsolicited, unproven scripts or stories to writers and the damage that can do to a writer’s career.
Beyond the normal implication that yes, you are indeed putting the writer in an untenable position with regards to their ability to create things… Seriously, you wouldn’t be contacting this particular writer if you didn’t value their abilities, so why would you want to slap creative shackles around their wrists? If they do anything remotely related to the thing you’ve sent them, something even tangentially related… They do it in the shadow of a potential lawsuit. Yes, you’re a fan. Yes, you would never do anything to hurt your hero – except you already have, and they have no idea how you’ll react when you see their name on a book exploring ideas similar to the ones you sent them. A book that may have been in process for two years before you hit send and heard the little whooshing sound on your mac’s Mail.app. Of course you’re not going to believe “I already thought of that,” even if it’s the logical next step for the characters or the universe.
And here, I could tell give an example of where I’d like to see Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe go, but I’d rather not guarantee that it doesn’t go there, should he come across this post.
Anyway… Here’s the big thing… Beyond that implication, and I’m sorry to have to say this, but… Who the hell are you? What makes you think you’re important or amazing enough that you should bypass the proper channels and get another writer to put his neck on the line and spend some (or all!) of his cred with his contacts to give you a leg up? If you’re as awesome as you think, you can make it through the gauntlet. If you’re as awesome as you think, you’re better served by following one big rule… Don’t be a douche.
I’m a writer. I have writer friends. We all give each other a head’s up when we can, or cheerlead for one another when something needs doing. I am blessed to have intensely talented and creative friends of all stripes and colors. In fact, I’m blessed to be able to consider one of my absolute favorite writers – someone I admire and look up to, someone whose writing amazes and delights me endlessly – to be a friend. And you know what I’ve never done to her? I would never ask her to slip a story of mine to her agent, or her publisher. I’ve never even asked her to critique something I’ve written before it’s been published.
If you look on my Twitter, I’ve asked for feedback from certain of my other writer friends (Eddy and crew), and I know you’re thinking “the Dude abides, and he sees your hypocrisy.” But it’s not the same. In Eddy’s case, we already have an editorial relationship, and I’d like to think we have that level of trust. That bridge is already there. Of course, if he said he felt uncomfortable with it, I’d have completely understood. Otherwise, it’s an open call for people willing to read it and let me know what I need to fix. I’m not putting anyone on the line who doesn’t volunteer their services.
Back to the point… I know these people and I’m wary of pushing my work on them. What makes it cool to do that to people you don’t even know?
Last night was my first “rehearsal” for the haunted houses this year. Technically it wasn’t a real rehearsal – costume fitting, learning our makeup, and getting the venue tour/becoming acquainted with our positions was the order of the night.
I love working these things. This will be my eighth year at the park, so in a way, it’s like visiting family. Our crew from After Hours was scattered all over the park in new houses and old, but I still got to see and spend time with a lot of friends last night.
I’ve retired my club kid glowboy character, Adam, from After Hours. He probably escaped when Club Muse was raided by the police, and apparently I didn’t. My new part is an inmate on death row. I stand on the gallows, waiting to stretch. What is wrong with you? How can you just walk by and let me die? And they gave me a microphone. This should be fun.
On the way home, I got an almost fully-formed idea for something that needed to be written, so I’ve been working on it all night. I’ll leave you with this little plug for some stuff my friends are doing:
Machine Age Productions: Terminus Est — David A. Hill, Jr. is in the process of building a new open source (Creative Commons) RPG that looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.
The Infi-Net Revolution – Martin C. Henley and Chuck Wendig explore the concept that by their nature, heroes are stupid. As in, a few whores short of a bordello. Also, it’s hilarious.
The Whitechapel Project – Eddy Webb crafts some democratized serial fiction about a man named VI (that’s six, not vee. Please, don’t be difficult, I’d like to get back to work). You can vote to guide the story, which means you can also vote to make life easier for VI or harder for Eddy, whatever floats your boat.
The Red Tree – It’s been out a little over a month now, so you have picked up Caitlín R. Kiernan’s newest novel, right? If you have, and you’re not fond of the cover, you’ll find an alternate cover I designed on her site that you can print out and paste onto your copy. If you haven’t, what the hell? Get out there and feed the tree, people.
It’s easier to fail. Success is hard, no matter how you measure it. For me, it’s writing. It’s easier and, usually, more fun to fail. Galloping across the farthest reaches of Northrend with Kat in World of Warcraft, or catching up on the latest episodes of Leverage, or rewatching Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica… Failing is easier. Hours pass and I realize I didn’t write again today.
Deadlines are a little better. People are more likely to leave you alone when there’s a paycheck on the line than if it’s some ephemeral personal project. But I need to buckle down. More paying gigs would be nice, but there are three personal projects that are important to me. I have to stop getting in my own way.
To that end, I need to establish habits. In Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit, she says “first steps are hard… Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this?” (The book, by the way, is awesome. I can’t recommend it enough.) I need my rituals. This blog will become one of them.
Artists limber up by sketching. That’s one purpose this blog will serve… It’s hard to stare at a blank page, but once you get your mind in the writing mode, it’s a lot easier to just keep going. So I’ll see you here, right? It’s no fun without you.
Last night, we went to a sneak preview of 9, directed by Shane Acker. Kat and I have been looking forward to this film for about a year, since we saw the first footage. If you’re curious about the backstory, you can hit up the 9 Experiment and look around the scientist’s lab.
First thing’s first: The PG-13 rating isn’t a joke. This is a bleak, bleak movie. The settings are beautifully desolate, and more than once, the ragdoll characters have to navigate through a landscape strewn with the corpses of humans murdered by the machines. Seriously. 9 – and this may be considered a very slight spoiler – has to pull something from beneath the withered, dead hand of his creator. The character designs are gorgeous, and the world is wonderfully realized. The mechanical monsters built by the synthetic B.R.A.I.N. are creepy tattered things, made up of an amalgam of bone, metal and other detritus left behind by humanity.
If there’s one complaint I have about the film, it’s that it is way too short. At 79 minutes long, it could have happily been expanded at least another half hour. I would have liked more time with the characters, to establish more of a rapport. I think they leaned a little too heavily on the iconic stereotypes of the dolls: the dictator, the brute, the crazy guy, and so on. It would have made the ending a bit more poignant, I think, if you could have identified more with the characters.
That said, I friggin’ love 3 and 4.
Oh, one more thing… It needs to be reiterated: this is not a Tim Burton movie. Shane Acker directed it, and I hope he doesn’t have the same issues Henry Selick has with A Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton only produced the film; he had no creative stake.
The girl floats in darkness, her hair fanning out delicate as seaweed. Her skin is clammy and white, broken by purple bruises like orchids in the snow. She has not been in the black water for long. Ragged cuts line her cheeks and arms, but there is no blood. A flowing dress wraps around her, hiding any further damage. Her arms are bound in front of her at the wrists. Cloudy, color-drained eyes stare up at the moon. Her jaw hangs limply open, and water laps in and out of her mouth.
Languidly, the current of the stream pulls her along, over silt, stone, and shining fish to places she never saw when she was alive. Tree branches reach out with grasping hands as she passes, but the river has her.
Her journey continues.
Something I wrote a few years back. It’s on my LJ, but I wanted to dredge it up and get it on Fragments of Shadow, just ’cause.
So, Neil Gaiman said this in an interview about ten years ago:
I was always so relieved that anyone wants to publish anything I’ve written. In many ways I feel like the biggest challenge hasn’t come yet. Because, if pressed, I would confess that what I’m really scared of is that one day somebody will knock at the door and they’ll have a clipboard. They’ll say, “Mr. Gaiman?” And I’ll say “Yes.” They’ll say, “It says here that you get to make stuff up and get paid for it.” I’ll say, “Yes.” “And it says here that you can do anything you want. You can go and do fantasy and you can do real fiction and you can do TV, films, whatever you want.” And I’ll say, “Yes.” And they say, “Well it’s over. It’s done. We’ve caught up with your game, Sir. You are going to have to go and get a real job. And work normal hours.”
Yes, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar show up and they say “It’s over. You are now going to have to get a real job.” I will have gone to that point, seemingly expecting that this writing thing would go on for ages. I’d then think, “Well, it’s a fair cop.” I would go off and have to get a real job and get up the morning and wear a suit. I suppose I’d secretly make some things up in my head for myself before I went to bed at night, or before I go to sleep anyway lying in bed, sort of making up little stories. But I’d never be able to tell anybody. That’s the thing I’m scared of.
I mean, I know these fears are fairly universal, but it’s somehow comforting to see someone like Neil articulate them.
You can also read the full interview.
Oh, and go read the Graveyard Book. It’s wonderful.
This post is going to be a kind of manifesto in a sense, and just plain catharsis in another, It’s probably also going to be pretty scattered. Mostly, this is about my mindset and the emotional and creative frequency I’m currently on. If you’re not interested – and really, I don’t blame you – maybe you’d like something else?
I’m Going to Suck
First thing you need to know? I’m a shy and insecure person. I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be, but I am. I have never really been able to fully invest myself in anything I’ve done creatively, because I always have the little voice in the back of my head… They’re going to laugh at you. Nobody will like it. Even now, every time I send off a draft to my editors, he’s there… This is it. This is the one. They’re going to read this and you’re going to get an email that says “whoops, we made a huge mistake. I’m not sure why we even hired you in the first place.” I stress out and live in fear of people thinking my work sucks and, by extension, so do I.
Everything I do isn’t going to be gold, and I have to be OK with that. But just because I produce something that sucks once doesn’t invalidate the other things I’ve done or the potential I have to produce something amazing in the future. Honestly, I think getting the suck out now might even raise my chances of producing that amazing thing.
I’m a Writer
Someone asked me what I did the other day, and I told them the truth as I see it.
“I’m a writer, and a web designer,” I said.
“Oh,” he said, “anything I might have read?”
“Probably not,” I shrugged. “All of my actual published work is in tabletop RPGs.”
“Oooh. I thought you meant a real writer.”
Yeah. And again, fuck that. I don’t need validation from anyone to know that I’m a writer. I’d be a writer even if I didn’t have a pretty regular gig doing it. I write. As melodramatic as it sounds, I couldn’t survive without writing. Without it, I wouldn’t be whole. I’m proud of my work for White Wolf. I love role-playing games, and I love that I get to take part in shaping and building a world I’ve been immersed in for over half my life. I will never be ashamed of that.
That guy who basically said I wasn’t a “real” writer? He didn’t mean to insult me. He was surprised that it annoyed me.
Society frowns on the kind of earnest and thoughtful intensity that creates its most enduring, beautiful works. It’s interesting, because it’s almost like a kind of institutionalized discrimination. People who try are weird. Pretentious. Even when you make it, even when you earn society’s “acceptance” of your weirdness, you’re separate. Celebrity is, in a sense, another kind of segregation. It’s still a matter of us and them.
Pretension is such a dirty word. Except all writing is pretense. Everything worth doing is pretentious. You’re damn right I have aspirations “above my station.” You’re damn right I’m going to stretch and reach for things.
And I may miss. I may fall off the ladder I’ve built for myself. But that’s just an opportunity to stabilize the foundations and build it higher before I climb back up.
I’m done apologizing for that.
Good lord. It’s been too long since I made a proper post.
I’m never going to get around to redesigning my site. The cobbler’s children have no shoes, and all that. So, for the moment, I just went ahead and installed Wordpress and a theme that doesn’t make my eyes bleed.
Let’s see: Quick updates this time.
I’ve been writing like a madman for the last month. By the 4th, I should have written 64k since March began. I’ve been sick for most of that time, too, which is slowing me down more than I’d like.
Shadows in the Dark: Mekhet, Night Horrors: Immortal Sinners and New Wave Requiem have all been released and very well received. I’m really proud of NWR in particular, since it’s actually convinced longtime Masquerade fans who dismissed Requiem to give it another look.
My group will start playtesting Geist as soon as I finish this mad dash of writing. The Hunter game and the Mage game are on hold until we get through that.
We might have a new cat soon. His name is Hoshi, and he’s adorable.