Because the only thing more terrifying than velociraptors are velociraptors that can fly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thanks for reading

So my intention was to update this blog but every Tuesday. Obviously, since I am doing so today, I forgot. You have my sincerest apologies, dear readers.

Here I am today, though, ready and rearing to go!

The main reason I did not post yesterday was because I pretty much spent the whole time editing. I have Tuesdays off from work, so I woke up at 8:30, promptly set my alarm back a half hour, and went back to sleep. When I did get out of bed, it was 9 o'clock, a fine time to start my day. 

I am very much a morning person, in that I'd rather get all my difficult stuff out of the way at the beginning of the day and have time to rest and relax later on. If it's dark out, I'm pretty much useless.

On Monday evening, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine about Episode 2 (which comes out next week), discussing the its strengths and weaknesses. My biggest problem this time round seemed to be an overuse of the narrative lens. For anyone who hasn't read my first episode (and you really should, it's only 99 cents, here's a link: the story is told in the first person by the main character, Professor Jack Baling. What my friend noticed, however, was that I was overusing the "I," that is to say, rather than having Jack describe a scene like this: "A fire burned in the grate," I would say, "I saw a fire burning in the grate." See the difference? In the latter, what's happening is being filtered through Jack's perception.

True, the whole story is filtered through Jack's perception--it is first person, after all. The narrator is directly involved in the story as opposed to some distant, omniscient eye in the sky. But as an author, my main goal is to  keep a certain level of fluency in my story, a flow, a rhythm. I need my reader to be so sucked into my work, to see the picture I'm painting so vividly that they forget they're reading at all. The narrative lens can be useful on occasion, but overusing it creates a hurdle for the reader, places a barrier between them and the story, which is to be avoided.

It's funny, because reading the second draft of my story, the same one that my friend read, I got to certain sections of it where I knew that the story wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, but couldn't pinpoint why. I knew that it was weak, but couldn't find the weak spots. That's where my friend comes in. She says, "Look. Right here. Fix this," and I say, "Of course! How could I have been so blind?" And I'm completely serious. (OK, maybe not completely serious, but fairly serious.) I read my own work over and over, I know what I'm trying to say, so there's this paradoxical blindness I have toward it. I know the inner lives and secret histories of my characters. My readers do not. So I need to be able to have the characters interact in such a way that who they are syncs up with how I portray them, which is difficult. But that's why we have editors, yes?

A friend of mine told me this morning that he saw a dedication in a book he was reading and thought of me. I can't remember how it goes exactly, so forgive me for paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect of, "People think that writing is a solitary pursuit, and to a certain extent, it is. The writer sits alone at his or her keyboard, and creates a story. But the story as it is first written is much different from the one that gets published. In between those two stages lies a multitude of drafts, each read by a legion of people. In regards to those who have helped me, you are too many to name, but too important to ignore."

And I agree with that. I would not be where I am, my work would not be as it is, were it not for those people who have helped me. You are the bridge between what I create and what I want to create.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Wonder What "Melancholy" is in Irish?

Hello there, internet. 

So I wasn't sure what I was going to talk about today, but then a friend texted me and I knew what I should write.

This June, I am going to Dublin, Ireland for grad school. One of the features of my creative writing program is that it brings its students to Ireland each June. Last year we went to Sligo, home of W. B. Yeats, and while this year we're headed to Dublin. I've been before, but even so, I am excited to be going back. The trip is going to be bittersweet as well, though. It's my last residency, you see, which means that after this June, I won't be seeing my Carlow colleagues again (at least, not through school, anyway). And these people aren't just my colleagues and fellow writers, they are my friends. But they hail from all over. I live in Georgia now, but who knows where I'll end up? In any case, I'll see them in Ireland, but only for a few weeks.

It's funny, I remember my very first residency in Pittsburgh. I got to the hotel the school was putting out of town students in and was so nervous about my first day of class. But the people I met were so warm and welcoming. By the end of the two weeks I'd spent with them, I was so many friends the richer. Also at the end of that residency was the final dinner. It was delicious. We went to the Monterrey Bay Fish Grotto and I had the best salmon--Rodi grilled with a honey-lime glaze--than I have ever had in my entire life. (It haunts me.) After dinner, the fourth-residency students did their final readings, readings from their thesis manuscript. It occurred to me yesterday that my final reading will be at the end of this upcoming residency. What will I read? I skimmed through my manuscript today, and I haven't found anything I'm psyched about yet, but I still have some time.

Still, it seems weird. I'm sure that I'll be extremely nervous, too. Hell, I got nervous this past residency on behalf of my friends, and I didn't have to *do* anything. I'm just glad the final dinner won't be in Pittsburgh. I doubt I'll actually be able to eat anything before I read. 

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to spending time with my friends and Ireland, as well as meeting the newbies. I hope they like the program as much as I do. I'm certainly going to miss it once it's gone...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On writing(riding)

Hello there, everyone.

Recently, in case you haven't heard, I've published my very first story on (check it out At the end of that story, I announced that it will continue in Episode 2, which will come out on May 1st. I also said that anyone interested in more information about me or my work can head to this website. Some time in the past week, however, I realized that I hadn't been updating my blog with any great frequency. I rationalized this by saying, "Oh, I just can't seem to find the time. I'm either at work or writing." The thing is, I work part time, and I haven't been writing that much since I published Episode 1. Partially that's due to my having gotten some new video games around my birthday (Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is really fun), but there's also some writer's block going on there too.

In any case, I decided that this blog shall be updated at least once a week (on Tuesdays) if not more so. Which brings us to now.

Since my publication, I've sold 36 copies of my story, which has netted me a grand total of $12.25, about enough money to get me a large cheese pizza from Pizza Hut (which isn't too shabby. Pizza Hut is my favorite pizza place). The reason I've made so little is because I'm selling my story for $.99, and Amazon's royalty program is set up in such a way that you can only get 75% royalties on a story more than $2.99. If it's under that, you get 35%, but really, I'm fine with that. This story isn't about the money (although I'm more than willing to take it if people are willing to give it to me). This story is about building myself an audience.

I plan on releasing eleven more episodes after this first one (give or take a few. However many it takes to tell the whole story arc). I've already written the first several, which gives me a sort of buffer zone in case something in my life goes terribly wrong (like I'm mobbed by legions of fans to such a degree that their overwhelming adoration for my work crushes my lungs, or whatever).

I'm having trouble with Episode 4, though. I'm not sure why, what it is that's preventing me from putting pen to paper (although in my case it's fingers to keyboard). This seems to happen to me every once in a while. My writing friends will tell you that when I'm "on," when I have a goal and a deadline, I can turn out Stephen King amounts of fiction. I wouldn't say they're of King-quality, but quantity I can replicate. Two thousand words a day is no problem. If I'm feeling really inspired, that can turn into individual days of five to eight thousand words. My best is ten k, but I'd had a lot of caffeine that day.

The problem is that when I'm not "on," I'll barely write a page in a week, and it's depressing. I'll sit down at the computer with every intention to write, but the internet or video games always end up distracting me. It's like the mighty river of my creative energy gets dammed up by sticks and stones and mud of procrastination, and then only a little dribble of flow makes its way through the cracks.

The way I see it, writing is kinda like riding a bicycle without gears up a street with a lot of hills. When you haven't written for a while, you're at the bottom of that hill, and getting yourself up there takes a lot of work. It's hard, it takes all this energy, and it'd be so easy to stop, to just get off the bike and go home, but if you want to call yourself a writer, you have to keep pedaling. If you do, if you keep putting in the work, then things start to get a little easier further along in your writing session. You'll eventually crest the peak, and then, then my favorite time in the world happens. The story starts carrying you along with it. All that work you put into it, the momentum, it starts propelling you, rather than the other way around, and then you soar. It's like you can barely keep up with the inspiration streaming into your consciousness, your fingers fly across the keyboard. Eventually,that momentum will run out, and you'll start to plateau, but here's the key part:

Write again the next day.

That next writing session is another hill, but unlike in cycling, you control how steep it is. If you write every day, even a little bit, the hill will be easy to get up, but still fun to ride down. That momentum will carry over and help you up the steep part. If you don't, though, then that hill will grow. It will become steeper and steeper until it's practically hanging over you, looming, blocking out the sun, and then you'll be afraid to tackle it.

Don't let that happen. Ride (or write) every day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I've done it. By George, I've done it!

It's official. I am a published author. Very, very excited. What's more, somebody reviewed it and gave it five stars. I'm not sure I even know who did it. That blows my mind. There's something neat about somebody reading my work, who has no connection to me, no bias for or against me, and likes what I have to say.
That's a buoying feeling. (That was a tricky word back there. Took me a couple tries to get it right.)

Here's the link if you haven't seen it yet:
It only costs $.99, so if you don't like it, you're only out a dollar. And really, what can a dollar buy you nowadays? A pack of gum? Some tic-tacs? How about fifty pages of well-written prose by yours truly?

If you do get it and you like it, please leave a review. Those are really helpful and encourage other people to get it. On that same note, I'd appreciate any word-spreading you'd like to do. I have Twitter, Facebook and this blog (plus a big Catholic family), but if you can tell your friends, I'd be grateful.