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27 February 2014

I like to pound my head against walls

Couldn't find a pertinent pic
so I chose this. I just really like
Brent Spiner.
Some people say that but they don't really mean it.

I have a friend who nods in agreement when I say I like to pound my head against walls, and maybe he does, but when it comes right down to it he usually chooses a softish kind of wall like sheet rock or plaster. I embrace the art of head pounding and use only cinderblock. Or, if sheet rock, only if it is wired to explode or shoot acid.

Case in point. I was talking to some writer friends, Jen Johansson and Renee Collins, and lamenting my woes in regards to queries and form rejections. They asked how many queries I had sent without getting a request for a partial and I told them around sixty for a particular book. They both said, without much hesitation, that my query probably sucked then. Even poor manuscripts will get a few look-sees, they said, if the query is good.

I know that. I mean, I know that, but in my head for the last few months my thought process has been the following: okay, the query might not be great (I really, really hate writing queries) but most of these agents ask for the first five or ten pages so no big deal. They'll be underwhelmed by the query but then get to my book and abruptly have a compunction to write A + A + A + on the nearest blackboard.

Jen and Renee voiced gentle disagreement over my reasoning. Renee actually punched me. In the face. Anyway, I'm used to banging my head against walls so the punch was no big whoop. I did agree to work on my query though. They even said they'd help me. Thanks, guys.

26 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - the first person that ever drank orange juice

Sometimes I wonder who the first person that ever drank orange juice was.

It was probably a long time ago but I wonder if that guy drank the orange juice for breakfast. You know, and that's why orange juice is traditionally a morning drink?

Nothing jumps out at me when it comes to orange juice that makes me think it should be a morning-only drink.

I hate it when we do stuff just because that's the way everyone has always done that thing. Tradition is fine but we shouldn't be chained to it. We're not sheep. We're humans.

So last night at 7:45 PM I drank a tall glass of orange juice. It was disgusting.

The first person that ever drank orange juice . . . eh.

25 February 2014

LTUE Insight - Ideas are aliens

I've never heard a writer ask another writer where they got the idea for their book. That's kind of one of those questions a non-writer might ask, where the writers in the room will roll their eyes as the person questioned makes something up.

I was thinking that maybe writers should ask that question every once in a while. Sure, ideas are a dime a dozen. I can sit down with a piece of paper, do word/idea associations, and in twenty minutes come up with twenty different ideas for a story. And I'm slow.

As a writer though, I'm not interested in just an idea. I'm looking for the right idea. Actually I'm looking for the perfect idea. Perfect ideas are not cheap.

I like what Stephen King says:
"Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky. . . your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up."
If Frank Herbert were still alive, I probably wouldn't be all that interested in asking him where he got the idea for Dune Messiah or Children of Dune. Those are fine books but I would guess he got those by asking himself what if questions based off the first book.

Dune though. Hey, when that one sailed out of the air, holy crap. How did Frank sort through the good ideas and the bad ones to come up with that masterpiece? That would be worth knowing. Even for him, apparently. He only wrote one Dune. I'm not discounting all of his other works. He was a brilliant writer, but Dune is arguably the greatest science fiction book ever written. He never even approached that again.

So how do you consistently recognize good story ideas when they come? Strike that. How do you recognize perfect story ideas when they come? I don't see why you should even bother writing the good ones? I want perfection.

Problem is, if you believe King, those ideas come down out of the sky like an alien wanting to probe and measure. I say it might be a good idea to find those writers who have just been probed and ask them where they got their idea.

24 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - driving on a highway

I was driving on a highway about an hour ago.

The thing about highways is that everyone seems so busy. If you stop and smell the roses people honk at you or call you names. Cops come and write you tickets or arrest you. And don't even get me started on the toxic fumes from all the cars.

I would totally do donuts all day
long if a highway look like that
I wish people would build highways that were more like the great outdoors. You know, Yosemite would be nice, even a Japanese moss garden.

We can do such amazing things nowadays. I mean, there's this app that uses your phone's camera so you can see where you're walking. You never even have to look up. Blows my mind.

Seems to me that if we can make amazing apps like that we could create highways that reminded people of the Ardennes in Norway. Only made of cement.

I just think we choose not to. Sad.

Driving on a highway . . . eh.

20 February 2014

LTUE - The Dramatic Downside of Technology

That was the topic for one of my panels last week. Not only did I think this was a lame topic, but the other panelists felt the same. So we decided to play a game instead. James Wymore was the moderator and it was his idea to play the game. The other panelist was Natalie Whipple. Both of them are successful authors.

What is that, a cap gun?
The game was a contest to see who could come up with the best end-of-the-world scenario that included the use of technology. The scenario James came up with involved a blood-thirsty artificial intelligence. Natalie's scenario involved genetically-enhanced wild boars (think scary stuff in Russia).

That was my competition.

I don't want to brag, but my scenario totally rocked. Sure LTUE is a sci fi/fantasy symposium, but I wanted to come up with something believable, something the common man could relate to. I envisioned a near future where every man, woman, and child has Google Glass wet-wired into their brain and a computer virus enters the system and forces all of humanity to watch a continuous string of cat videos until everyone loses their mind and jumps off the nearest skyscraper.

Hey, that not only seems believable, it seems imminent, right? I mean, take just this week, how many friends have forwarded you a cat video? Try and imagine the hell of experiencing that for an hour. Two hours. Two days. Two weeks.

Yeah, we'd be dead for sure.

19 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - cute girls on bicycles

You know what I'm talking about.

She's little, not much over five years old, pedaling by on that bike likely 
just emancipated from training wheels. She has golden ringlets of hair that hang and bounce, untroubled by the fetter of helmet and strap. A matching outfit so bright bees should rightly expect hidden nectar. She is radiant like sunshine, warmth a byproduct of her passing.

A neighbor waves. A butterfly flutters.

Me and my BB gun.

Cute girls on bicycles . . . eh.

18 February 2014

LTUE insights

When I was in high school if you'd told me that once a year or so I would go to a thing called a symposium where I attended (even participated in) panels where the craft of writing was discussed, that these panels would run all day from 9 AM to 8 PM, and that I would love every minute of it, I might have jumped off a tall building or something. My reasoning would have been if something like this was ever going to be a highlight for me, my future life was going to suck. Obviously.

Yet one more reason time travel should not be invented.

I love Life the Universe and Everything. It gets better every year. On one of the panels I participated in over the weekend, the discussion revolved around making characters that live and breathe. One of the questions asked how you make a reader care about a character. A few ideas were getting thrown around and I threw out a comment about Phillip K. Dick and how most of his characters were actually quite pathetic but he made you care about them nonetheless. I said at the beginning I didn't know how he did this. By the end of the panel, maybe I had figured out how he did.

It occurred to me that in most of the fiction we read, maybe the common trait shared by protagonists that makes us care about them is that they don't give up. Faced with whatever inner or outer conflict/weakness the story assigns them, they still move on. Just that. They don't give up. Something to think about. If you are a writer and you can get the reader to believe your character won't give up ever, not because you write it that way but because of who that character is, then you've probably won half the battle.

17 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - I hurt my wrist

I hurt my wrist but it wasn't because I was playing a video game. Why would you think that?
The pain

Sure, modern controllers have 20 or so buttons and in some games you have to use all 20 buttons, like that last scene in COD Ghost Protocol on Top of Zombies where you use the jetpack you got under the floorboard in that mansion to fly through the post-apocolyptic version of downtown Eau Claire, Minnesota while fighting off zombie eagles and kissing the president's daughter. But that's not how I hurt my wrist.

I hurt my wrist shoveling snow out of the driveway like my wife asked me to do. And if the driveway doesn't look completely done, or if it looks like I didn't shovel at all, it's because I hurt my wrist.

I hurt my wrist . . . eh.

14 February 2014

There was that dream about Comic Con

There was that dream about Comic Con where I was sitting at a booth and nobody was stopping and I was kind of bummed but then I realized I was trying to sell the collected fiction works of Jan Brady who is herself a fictional character and I didn't even know Jan was a writer so I opened up one of her books but it was just bound copies of her homework and she had atrocious handwriting but not surprisingly she dotted all her i's with hearts and that seemed appropriate because it was Valentines Day and that's when I felt my hair grow long and I got pecs and a six-pack like a dude on a romance cover and it felt great for a few seconds before I realized that I would have to work out and eat right if I wanted to maintain this and so I woke up and was fat again.

Valentines Day sucks.

13 February 2014

Life, the Universe, and Everything

One of my favorite things each year is to go to Life, The Universe, & Everything (LTUE Symposium) and listen to good writers talk about, well, judging by the picture above they're going to talk about dragons who hold pirate flags.

Actually, I'm not really sure why I go to this every year other than all the stuff I learn about perfecting my craft. Oh, and I am even a panelist a few times and I will have a reading Saturday.

The esteemed guest this year is Orson Scott Card, an up-and-coming young guy who has only written 40 or 50 books and just had a movie made from one of them. Earlier this century, when everyone was doing the top 100 of all kinds of things from the previous 100 years, any list that purported to included the best science fiction books always had Ender's Game in the top 10. Can't argue. One of my favorites. I've seen Card before and he is intelligent and very entertaining.

If you write, and you live in Utah, you could do worse than attend this symposium. Find more information here.

12 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - postage stamps

I heard that if you were in the know you would laugh every time someone kisses the Blarney Stone.

Well of course that gets me thinking about postage stamps. Do stamp collectors miss the good old days when you had to actually lick a stamp?

Actually, that's probably a stupid question. Stamp collectors would never lick a stamp because they collect them, right? That would be like taking an action figure out of its packaging.

Only I think you should take action figures out of their packaging. They're action figures. Note the word figure. Or was it action that was the important word there? I forget. I'm taking this from a lesson I learned in Toy Story 1 or 2 and those kind of blend together for me. Heck, it could have been Toy Story 3 even. I guess need to re-watch the series.

Regardless, what I'm trying to say is that stamp collectors should lick their stamps.

But they can't because stamps are all self-adhesive now.

It's sad.

Postage stamps . . . eh.

10 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - a delicate treatment on urinals

At my work the men's bathroom on the 6th floor has two urinals. One is a "tall" urinal and one is a "short" urinal.

Every once in a while I walk into the bathroom and there is only one other guy there and for some reason he has chosen to use the short urinal.

That raises many questions.

Why did my employer even install a short urinal, for one? I've thought about this and the only logical reason is that we must employ underage workers at night after everyone has gone home. That's surprising because my employer is well regarded in our community. I can't believe we are willing to take such an obvious PR risk. I would take a stand against this egregious practice, maybe do a little picketing or pass around flyers, but I like money.

I also wonder about guys who choose a short urinal when they could use a tall urinal. Their mothers probably really hated them.

A delicate treatment on urinals . . . eh.

05 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - creepy attics where there's actually stuff in the attic

Any time you watch a movie there is that whole "suspension of disbelief" thing the director and writer expect you to do.

That seems a little presumptuous to me but people do it, so . . . whatever.

Seems to me like we could organize, maybe establish a charter, start demanding fair compensation for every belief suspension. I've brought this up at dinner parties during polite conversation but it never gets any traction.

But back to attics. I struggle to suspend my disbelief when I see a young female in a movie climb into a creepy attic where there is actually stuff in the attic. Usually it's lots of stuff. I don't get it. The only stuff in my attic is joists and insulation.

Yep, Ardmore and Hollywood
I can see how reality might complicate filmmaking for a filmmaker, especially if the screenplay calls for the storyline to fall somewhere inside the horror genre. Creepy attics are kind of a standard there. Whenever I see one of these movies though, I just keep picturing wooden joists, maybe a crossbeam.

I wonder if other people will ever realize that the only place in the world where attics actually contain stuff is in Hollywood? That and Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Creepy attics where there's actually stuff in the attic . . . eh.

03 February 2014

Daily Ambivalence - balsa wood

Yeah, you say balsa wood and people typically think of insubstantial, lightweight things.

Kind of tragic, really.

Nobody remembers the story behind the name, how Wilbur Balsa had a genetic disease that caused his body to convert corn directly into fat. To the point where Wilbur ballooned to over 900 hundred pounds and he couldn't leave his parent's movie/game room. Not much he could do about changing his diet because he lived in Nebraska. Didn't help that his fingers got so thick he couldn't hold a spoon or fork. Just special-order corn holders.

With the title above referencing balsa wood and then the body of this blog discussing an unhealthy, morbidly obese corn fan, you probably thought I was going in the direction of a coffin made out of balsa wood so the pallbearers could carry it.

No, Wilbur died in a house fire - or should have - but that's when the townsfolk discovered he was a vampire.

A wood salesman from Equador happened to be in town so, you know. Balsa wood stakes wouldn't have been my first choice, but they did the job apparently.

Balsa wood . . . eh.

01 February 2014

JK Rowling reads my blog

Coincidence? I think not. Still, I'm not going to let it go to my head.

Yours in blogging, Sir CK Edwards.