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A Man Mansplains Mansplaining to Mansplainers

Gather round children. Come on. Come in close. Listen well. You there… get your finger out of your nose. You.. the one in the green… stop punching your neighbor in the arm. Just stop it. Settle down now. Shhhhhh…..

Alright. Everyone? Are you all settled in? No. Put away that bucknife. You can whittle that stick on recess. On second thought. Gimme that.

Okay. Here’s the thing. You know how you read an article on the internet and then you read the comments and they are all unironically demonstrating the content of the article? That just happened. I mean. It JUST happened. To me. And i figured i had to say something because it’s sort of staggering how some folks aren’t getting this. And i figured, y’know… the best way to get some folks to actually HEAR it is if it comes from a guy. Cuz frankly, and lets be honest here, you seem to have a shut off valve somewhere in your head when a woman says… well… anything.

So… What IS mansplaining? Well… It is a verb. ‘To Mansplain’. One has ‘mansplained’. It is, as you might have guessed, pretty deliberately gendered. You might have noticed. It is also a constructed word. These things are all true. And as such these seem to be the crux of any argument.

I do not know, nor do i particularly give a rats ass, about the particular etymology of the word. I only care that it’s construction delineates a certain long standing practice amongst a section of the gender (yeah… that’s you gents) who have historically been quite pleased with interjecting their thoughts and opinions in opposition to, and quite often in complete ignorance of, the opinions and thoughts of the ‘opposite’ gender. It is, pretty bluntly, a discursive artefact of male privilege.

No really. It is. That’s pretty much it.

Now, folks might object… (yeah… that’s likely you too Gents) that ‘hey! It’s divisive! Not all guys do that! I don’t do that. That’s not fair!

Well… you know the old adage about love and war. Well… this would be the war portion. and quite frankly, you’re losing. I know. It’s horrifying isn’t it? To be sitting on top of the world, grinning down upon all you survey with the insouciant surety that you are master’s of your domain and suddenly the whole world shifts and everything is looking like a terrible threat because people accuse you of mansplaining. It’s a threat to your… ahem… masculinity. It’s dangerous. It subverts the rightful order of things. (That order being that men’s words and opinions carry more weight and import than… well… anyone else’s.)

It’s a fucking word. I mean seriously.

You know what’s funny about getting stung by a word? You know what’s just a huge fricking belly laughing riot about all of the controversy and the sad puppies howling along with their own perception of their balls being snipped off? It’s that this word, in being dismissive of the eons old tradition of mansplaining, is actually giving men the taste of being dismissed. Hmm… it’s almost like that was on purpose. Gee.

That’s what i mean by you’re losing. If you miss that point… that it was actually DELIBERATE IRONY… you are woefully obtuse and so concerned about the state of your dangly bits that you don’t even notice that the world is wandering away without you.

And you should lose. Really. I mean fuck it. You’ve been propping up an idiotic tradition of masculinity for.. oh god… FOR FUCKING EVER. Don’t you think it’s just a wee bit (ahem… pardon the pun) confining? I mean, really. You LIKE being proscribed by your buddies who don’t understand your closet love for horses? You actually LIKE being called a ‘pussy’ for trading in a minivan, kids and a family for friday night black outs and donkey porn? You LIKE the fact that someone dropped you in a uniform when you were seven or eight years old and you’ve adopted it like you’re a proud member of the universal brotherhood of the mighty dick? Yeah… Cuz that’s what men do. They let everyone tell them what to be, how to think, what to like, who to like, what cars they can drive and still be a man.

Fuck that. Lose.

Or to put it in terms a little more like what you’re probably used to: Man up.

Mansplaining is a threat. It’s supposed to be. It’s a very effective one. It calls on you… YES YOU… to question just how much damned ego you need. If you find yourself defending it and feeling like ‘oh dear! someone just said i was mansplaining and i feel… i feel… like i’m not being respected.’ You know what? IT’S ALL TRUE. Now what? How much do you NEED to be respected. Just how important is your ego? How important is your opinion? Do you think you can find a way to actually discuss your opinion… ahem… you know… without… umm… maybe making it sound like yours is the only opinion that matters? Do you think you could actually find room in your ego to LISTEN?

Gents… seriously… Listening is the key to any communication. ANY. I wish i could say that in about a hundred different languages. ANY communication. If someone actually feels that you are listening THEN you are having a conversation. If they don’t. You aren’t. Pretty much that simple.

I’m a writer. Words are my business. They have power. But the cool thing about them is they have the power we give them. Inside all this discussion on ‘mansplaining’ is someone actually trying to explain something to you and… well… so far i see an awful lot of not listening.

But that’s the thing about having power isn’t it? It’s really hard to get past the feeling that you are always losing it. (hint… you always are, and it’s not worth having anyway. Makes you paranoid and not a very good person.)

Anyway. Just thought this might be helpful.

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Harriet Tubman and Prince or Why Power is a Lie

Prince

I was a pretty lucky kid. I don’t know what grace moved me. Looking back, it seems i certainly had some because – though primarily on my own much of the time – i somehow managed to stumble into awesome. Whether it was on a walk in the woods, lost by myself, or sitting in my room with a small stack of books, action figures, a terrible little radio that played only AM stations… I was pretty lucky.

Somehow – that Grace again – i stumbled into Prince. I couldn’t say what magnetized me so much. I was a kid. I didn’t think about it. But that’s how kids are aren’t they? They live in electromagnetic fields that no one can see – not even them – but somehow when the right magic comes by you become galvanized. The experiences that will make you stick to you. You are formed by these fields. Electromagnetic invisible love. And that’s about the coolest thing there is or can be. One of those things was Prince. Bam. Just like that.

Prince was cool in ways i could only dream about. He could sing. He could move. He could play guitar. Hell… when you’re eight or ten or whatever you are pretty sure he could do whatever the hell he wanted to. If ever there was a guy who could walk out of an explosion like they do in the movies Prince would be that guy. And he wouldn’t just walk out. He would strut out – pristine and in purple with that smile on his face.

Prince was power. He was art. You listened to his music. You sang along as loud as your eight to ten year old heart could handle. You tried the moves. You had no idea if you looked like a complete idiot. You didn’t care who was looking. Because in singing along, you tapped into that power. You became Prince. And somewhere, somehow, i realized in those moments of absolute transport that this was true power. This was triumph. This was unfuckwithability. It was a superpower. You felt fire in your fingertips. It was magic.

Prince the man died today. Where does that power go? Does it snuff out? Not hardly. Not even close. That’s the thing with real power. REAL SUPERPOWER. Not the stuff of TV or politicians speeches, or guys in suits with graying hair and checkbooks. It doesn’t go out. It doesn’t even change form. It just skips along on the rest of us like lightning bolts, arcing from one to another. We might have lost the man. And that’s sad. Because there was more we could have, should have had. But the power is always in our fingertips.

I guess that’s what i’ve been thinking about today. You watch the people on TV behind their desks or podiums. You watch the speeches and the spectacle. And all of a sudden you realize that The Power that Prince gives freely is the same stuff that they grasp at, the same thing they want to embody and hold on to. They want to have the power of a song and stammer at the injustice of not having it. The stuff the courses through that shitty AM station radio is bigger, badder, and infinitely stronger than what most people think of when they think of power.

Harriet Tubman is supplanting a president of the United States on a legal tender. That’s power. That’s real. That shows us that the thing that comes to us from guys like Prince and people like Tubman is real. It may take a while. A long while. But it doesn’t go out. People can make speeches and get elected and shit and that’s fine. They can make idiotic laws about where this and that person is allowed to pee, or drink, or live, or be treated. They can live in that world but the rest of us… well… it’s not our world. Our world is dinner tables, radios, tv sets, pencils on paper, watercolors, a space just small enough to dance or sing in. Sometimes it’s all we’ve got and i’ve come to believe it’s just big enough to punch the powerful in the mouth. They want that space. They’ve always wanted it. But no one is giving it up. It’s ours. You might get our vote….

But you’ll never be Prince

Or Harriet Tubman or a Louis Armstrong solo or a Turner Painting or a Guernica or John the Revelator or Jimi Hendrix or Public Enemy. You’ll never be as strong as the pop and crackle of an old Beach Boys album on the record player. You’ll never be the wide eyed stare of a ten year old kid watching Purple Rain for the first time.

And that, my friends, is a real superpower. It gives hope. It gives life. It gives light when all other lights go out.

People are going to bitch and not get it. Personally, i think at some level everybody gets it but i’m a closet optimist. But i’ve already heard the plaintive wails of some folks who insist that the real power IS the stuff of fake princes: guys in suits with something to sell who can never afford what is actually free. They’ve invested in that version of supremacy. It’s sad. No Beatles song can cure them. They’ll stare at Guernica for hours and never see anything more than a strange horse. They’ll insist that the great deeds of great men are the stuff of real life. But they aren’t. Not really. They’re the stuff of moments trapped in the resin of history.

Don’t worry about those folks. They’ll sink below the waves of history crashing over them eventually, wailing how this shouldn’t be. But we’ll be here with Prince and the others: Lemmy, Bowie, Rickman, Harriet Tubman, Armstrong and the ones still to come.

Shelley once said “The poet is the unacknowledged legislator of the world.” So too is the musician, the painter, the author, the poet, the sculptor and the little kid sitting on the floor with his action figures listening to the sounds of glory bleating out of his AM radio. We create the heaven of possibility. In this there is all the power in the world. Enough to shake the foundations and cast down the princes.

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Dear Writers…

CastleandBeckett

CASTLE – ABC’s “Castle” stars Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle and Stana Katic as NYPD Detective Kate Beckett. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)

So, by now anyone who cares has heard the news that Stana Katic is leaving the show at the end of the season – allegedly for ‘budgetary reasons’ blah blah blah. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe, like me, you’ve already preemptively stopped watching. But this isn’t about that. Not really anyway. This is about the writers and ‘showrunners’ and such. Who are, sadly, idiots.

The news of Katic’s departure came to me from a former cop. Over at The Graveyard Shift they do this wonderful little bit of analysis of each episode of Castle from a cops perspective. As a procedural writer myself, this sort of analysis is invaluable and kind of wonderful. But they broke the news. I’m not going to lie: it was a little earthshattering.

The nice thing about Castle as opposed to regular or more serious ‘cop shows’ is that it recognizes that it is not a clinic in procedural writing. It has, in the past, embraced it’s goofiness. If there is one thing that people gravitate to Castle for it’s that, at it’s best, it’s a fan paradise with Richard Castle himself as the ultimate fanboy. See…. writers get this. Or at least most writers do. Writers – at their best – are fans. They can be fans of crime procedure, investigation technique, interrogation. They can be nerds soaking in sci fi and fantasy. They can be unabashed enthusiasts of damned near anything and everything. That’s kind of what gets us into this business to begin with.

And that’s what i want to get at here.

See… lately there seems to be these murky writing denizens creeping out from the disgusting ooze that appears to be damned near everywhere these days. It’s like some sort of tomb has been opened and the dragging shambling corpses of former writers have been pouring out to blight us all with… well… what’s the best way to put it? ‘not fun-edness’ or to put it differently, their own bilious and fairly toxic spewings of literary criticism in some noxious cloud of post freudian analysis.

Lit crit is great. Until it isn’t. And there appear to be A LOT of writers who have somehow exchanged it for actually enjoying what they’re doing.

Castle is only the most recent example. My own read on the shake up is that the new showrunners suck. That’s about it. Ever since taking over the job, all they’ve wanted to do is change the show to what they think it SHOULD be. This is the same fault the morons at DC fell into when they decided that Zack Snyder is the go to guy to helm their film future. It’s my opinion that these writers are writing for a paycheck. They don’t know nor do they particularly care about the property they’re entrusted with. In fact, they seem like bitter little shits who are all like ‘well you wouldn’t read my one brilliant book about the deviousness of sock knitters at the grand national sock knitting convention which borrows brilliantly from Neruda with flavors of Foucault and Derrida… so i’m going to ruin the things you love. And i’m going to get paid doing it. Nyah. Nyah. Nyah.’

We all know… though we hate to admit it… that hollywood is CRAMMED with these writers. They wrote a single thing, somehow got into a writing room, it sucked the life out of them and blighted their existence and they really would rather be doing just about anything else other than writing. They’ve lost the sense of ‘fun’ they had in it and they can’t WAIT to get out of there to have a mai tai on the beach with someone. (and really… who can blame them for wanting a mai tai on the beach)

I’m not saying all hollywood writers are the same. I’ve been there and i’ve met quite a few folks who are working their asses off to bust in and they LOVE writing. It just seems that some of the ones now in charge are NOT them. They’ve lost their spark. They need a good long vacation to some place… any place… that preferably doesn’t have internet and where they might be eaten by cannibals.

But the problem is that there is literally THOUSANDS of writers who absolutely love writing. They LOVE fangirling (or boying) out over things. They squee over this or that plot turn. They ship and ship HARD. And each one of them is grinding away in their own fandoms. (Also… if you think fanfic is not worthy of your review or beneath your astute consideration, you can just jump this particular ship right now. This blog is not for you) Any one of these writers would leap with both hands out over a cliff to snatch at the chance to write the next Batman movie, or work on the writing staff for Castle. We know what it is to have fun. Because it is fun.

Writing should be fun. Even when (especially when) you are actually using it for some criticism. Every time i hit the page i try and have fun. If i’m not having fun, i don’t do it. And believe me, i jam as much social criticism into the fun as i think i can get away with. Because that’s PART of the fun and it’s what makes writing important and actually… dare i say it… GOOD.

But right now we seem to have showrunners and writers who are drawing a paycheck. They’re writing to a committee of twits in a board room somewhere who don’t know and don’t care much beyond what the ad revenue is going to bring in. They’re looking for the ‘sure thing’ – like Batman vs. Superman. They need the brand to sell commercial slots. And quite honestly, i’m beginning to think these board room script supervisors have their television sets locked in a freezer somewhere and the last movie they saw had a young Bruce Willis in it.

Nerds rule. That’s the takeaway from all of this. The sooner producers, showrunners, and the sunlight-deprived writing rooms of Hollywood understand this, the more likely they are to actually make money. And i’m not talking about the tidy pile of ill gotten gains they get on opening weekend (looking at you BvS) I’m talking about all of it. Merch. A steady pool of willing writers to blow you away with their interpretations of this and that. Repeat customers.

Let’s put it this way: I saw Avengers twice in the theatre. I saw Force Awakens Twice in the theatre. I bought it immediately BEFORE it was available on DVD. We are the Ents. (also if you don’t get this reference, this blog is not for you) we have awoken and found ourselves powerful. And we’ve discovered (through the internet) that there are more of us than anyone ever thought existed anymore. We’ve drawn others in. We are growing. If you think your post structural analysis of Superman and your Postfreudian interpretation of Batman impresses us – you are dead wrong. If you think you can ‘change the dynamic’ of a show because YOU think you know better than us what the show should be, you’ll see our power in the deafening silence you receive.

We are the fans. We’re your blasted base. That’s the beauty of it. You think it’s shareholders. Well… those shareholders are likely to be mighty disappointed when you disappoint us.

So get with the program, please. Start listening. Or we’ll do what we’ve been doing which is walking away and creating our own stuff. It’s what we do. Because it’s FUN and we love it. And maybe that’s what you don’t get. Nerds LOVE things. You callously rely on that love to make a quick buck and we’re getting mighty sick of it. And it makes us want to punch you in the junk.

If you would like a few examples of what i’m talking about because you don’t know… Check out Firefly posts on facebook. Check out the new success of the fourth season of Longmire. Check out the resurrection of Star Wars. Check out just about any Marvel movie that gets released. I mean… they made a movie about a tree and a talking raccoon! AND IT MADE AN ABSOLUTE SHITLOAD OF MONEY.

Don’t make us tear down your shitty little Isengard. We’ll do it. And we’ll have fun doing it. We’ll bring marshmallows and popcorn. And you’ll be sitting there all sad like ‘but… my tower. My army of hideous shambling minions… that just got eaten by a forest… i haz a sad.’ And we shall sit there and laugh and laugh and ship you with Cruella DeVille.

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Why Genre Writing Matters

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Yesterday i spent a long drive down to Burlington, Wisconsin to play a board game with some old friends. Now, by old, i mean we aren’t old. Older than we were, for sure. But time’s a funny thing. You don’t see it passing, it just does and one day you’re 40 and you haven’t seen those people you grew up with for 20 years or so, but even that time… weird though it is… evaporates as soon as you are in a basement with dice in your hand playing a board game. Just like you used to do.

But this isn’t really about that. Maybe i’ll hold that one off for later.

This is about the writer i heard on the news radio station i was listening to on the way down there. I don’t remember her name, but i can tell you she’s a shakespearean professor of english and she writes Romance. From the sound of things she makes a freaking KILLING at it too. Note – this is also not a promotional ad for all budding writers to run out and scribble some romance for the sake of riches.

Anyway, she chatted a little about the killing she was making at it and most importantly how those in her profession – her literary colleagues – were oblivious to it. They were completely unaware that her professor salary was dwarfed in the extreme by the small fortune she was raking in for writing pulpy bodice rippers. Well. Ain’t that just the shit?

I grew up with Genre writing. I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought Genre writing was called books. But i poured through The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. I graduated, slowly, to horror through Stephen King and then to… ahhh… this is fun… The Dragonlance Chronicles by Weis and Hickman. I was so damned envious when one of my friends scored a signed copy of Dragons of… something. I read them all. Then i soaked in Sci Fi for a while – Heinlein, Card, and then…

Neuromancer. I’ll be honest. Neuromancer broke my brain. The prose. Hell, i didn’t even really know what prose was at the time but i knew this was something different. For a while, William Gibson became my god and everything became Cyberpunk. Everything. And it was a delight. The world was complicated. Fast. Beautiful like moonlight on a heap of discarded computer parts or neon glinting on gutter junk.

Somewhere along the way, though, i stopped.

But that’s not a tragedy. There is more to the world than Genre fiction. I don’t regret for a second falling in love with Steinbeck or Hemingway or Austen or Fitzgerald. I would be an utter idiot for not falling for it. It’s beautiful, amazing stuff and it’s expanded my brain further than i think Genre fiction would have been able to. Plus, and this is really it, i burned out on Genre. It became harder and harder to find GOOD books in fantasy or Sci Fi. So much of it just seemed the same. It wasn’t the sort of hell i ever expected but it did suck.

The point of all this autobiographical blah blah is that there is still something to Genre fiction. There’s a reason so many people still read and love it and frankly, i think i got it. I got the bug again. And here it is – here’s the big secret that i think is worth telling. Shhhh… don’t let too many people know.

Genre fiction brings you hope.

There. There it is. That’s the secret.

I was watching Tomorrowland with George Clooney or as my friend and i like to call him Eyorhay Kloonay. It’s not a bad little film. Flashy. Fun. But one part stuck with me. The main character is sitting in school through a series of montages of her classes as she’s being bombarded with the negative reality of the world she lives in – war, famine, global warming, starvation, etc. Her hand is perpetually up and perpetually ignored. Finally, at the end of the montage, the teacher allows her to ask her question. What is her question?

How do we fix it?

Okay. And that’s pretty genius. Cuz here we are and the world seems like it’s falling apart around our shoulders and everything sucks and people are getting stupider and blathering bullshit everywhere we look and it gets really depressing when you see glaciers calve off and ice shelfs fall into the sea and everyone is all like ‘lalalalalalaaaaa!!! Let’s fucking PARTAY!’

But Genre fiction… It asks the question. How are you going to fix it? It ennobles the idiotic savage. How many sci-fi stories have inspired new scientists? Neil Degrasse Tyson has indicated that it’s inspired him. How many fantasy stories have made activists of kids who have gotten inculcated into the concept of evil. They WANT to be heroes. Maybe it’s not the only thing, but start them young on something… and miracles are possible.

Hell start em old. Start them whenever. In Mysteries, terrible crimes get solved in a way they so rarely do when we see all the blood splashed all over the news. In fantasy, we fight evil and we win. In sci fi we explore and face our fears of the unknown. In romance we find love in spite of terrible obstacles.

We fucking need these things. Particularly now when the world DOES seem so horrible. We need to believe in doing the right thing, being brave, exploring. The challenges are HUGE and… well.. this is just my opinion but the only damned thing that is going to save our asses against the ever-yawning void of the banality of tragic indifference is an ascendancy of imagination.

Remember that part of Lord of the Rings when Gandalf is talking about the ephemeral nature of hope? Yeah. That. Right there. How many kids read that and said: Fuck yeah. That’s going to be me some day. I’m going to stand in front of the Witch King of Angmar and though he’s going to rend me to ribbons, it’s where i need to stand. How many looked into the stars and saw themselves in a spaceship scudding among them?

Genre fiction spits in the face of the impossible. It eats it for breakfast and poops out rainbows. And hell… we can’t go wrong when it teaches us that you can stand with a dwarf and an elf and battle a freaking dragon. A. FREAKING. DRAGON. It says: yeah… i know these people are weird, different, different races that i don’t really understand but right now, these are the crew that are going to battle THAT big fricking dragon so i don’t give one god damn that one’s short and the other has pointy ears.

So, yeah. We need it. And i’m happy to write it. I want to do it as well as i know how because i WANT some kid to read it and be like ‘hell yeah. This is what justice is all about. This is what friendship is all about. This is what i’m looking to create in MY life.’

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The Short Man by Joshua L Cejka

Hey!!! Someone wrote something nice about my stuff! YAY!

The Book Muse

The world of Detective Megan Brown of Minneapolis has become one that I love and look forward to reading more on with each passing book. Written by a good friend I met through an online writing group, Joshua L Cejka, the series begins with a short story entitled, The Short Man.

Synopsis: Someone is paying their parking tickets the wrong way – by offing the Parking Enforcement Officers around a small college. Minneapolis Homicide Detective Meg Brown needs to know who it is and fast – before he decides to do worse.

It’s a race against the class bell to find out who the assassin is and stop them in this short but action packed mystery/thriller, the first of the Meg Brown series of mystery shorts. If you like your mystery sleuths plucky, brainy, and witty you’ll enjoy Meg.

~*~
From page one, I was hooked. It didn’t take me…

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The Art of Editing Vol. 3 – Ground down to a tiny nubbin.

Right. Yeah. I promised a blog about editing. So here it is. Frankly, i don’t really feel like it because i have been at it all day and my eyes are about to fall out of my head. Okay… that’s a lie. I HAVE been at it all day but i have also been goofing off in a huge proportion to the actual work getting done and THEN i hit a snag.

Right now i’m in the final phase. Proofreading. So that’s something you’ll need to figure on and put in your toolbox. It’s a bit of an annoying process. Really, it’s the easiest bit of editing because by now you should have smoothed out all the really rough edges to your work and are just on the verge of publishing the bad boy and getting out of the proverbial house. It’s all grown up and mouthing off and it wants to take your keys and go to The Who concert and it considers you a huge embarrassment.

I’ve had a proofreader go through it and i’ve gone through it myself. The Proof Copy looks like it should be good and dead with all of the scars all over it. But it isn’t. It’s breathing. It’s more alive than it’s ever been actually and i am just plinking away at patching the tiny things – putting bandaids on all the cruel cuts my red pen has made.

This should go fairly quickly, but it isn’t. I’ve hit a snag. There’s a three paragraph chunk that i somehow missed in the overall close editing that needs to be radically fixed in order for things to work. This sort of sucks, as you might imagine, because i’ve already had this thing out to Createspace and i’m working from a fully formatted Proof Copy, which means i REALLY want to keep the length as close to the original document as i possibly can or risk having to redo things that i don’t want to redo.

No big deal. I’ve got this. Tighten the language a little, kill off the massive run on sentence that i missed, smooth it out.

How do i do this you might ask in stunned and appreciative amazement? Well… it’s complicated. But basically, i stare at it until it starts changing. Is that a cop out answer? Yep. It sure is. But it’s also the truth. I roll the thing around in my head for a little while, try and figure what it is i’m trying to show the reader in that moment and let the sentences and paragraph reform themselves a little to bring that out.

Like i said – the bones are there. By this stage, if you have big changes, they’ve been done. If you are proofing, the finish line is in sight and you are stretching out for it. You’re constrained by knowing there isn’t much you CAN do short of scrapping huge chunks and rewinding yourself way back to a different stage in the editing process and you probably don’t want to do that. You’re sick of your story raiding your fridge and eating all of your food. You’ve bought it a Pinto and it’s already run it into a lake.

So yeah. Just relax. You’ve got this. Stare at that paragraph and let your wise training take over. Be the ball, Danny. I don’t want to hold you in suspense but i will say it didn’t take all that long to fix the paragraphs. There was one hefty run on that had some terrific imagery in it that actually worked better if i carved it into different sentences. It was a bit like straightening the poor guys tie before prom. Then there was the next paragraph that was far too witty for it’s own good. Cut that down to size a little and rearrange here and there, snip the silly rat tail off it’s head and make sure it has a comb in it’s pocket. Now off you go.

These things might come up in proofing. It’s important not to let it get to you. If you let it get to you, that little bastard is never leaving the house, you’re cutting up it’s drivers license and sending him back to sixth grade and you definitely don’t want to do that. You’re almost done. Just make the little fixes you need to make. Remember – we’re talking bandaids and not surgery at this point as long as i feel like mixing metaphors. Which i do. Cuz it’s my blog and i’ll mix if i want to.

If you have an open wound, stitch it up and slap a bandage on and get it out the door. That’s the lesson for the day. I know it’s nothing earth shattering but it may just save you some serious heartache.

Post Script:

Today i was completely schooled on a grammatical foible i have been committing – unwittingly – since time immemorial. The terrible error of my ways has been pointed out and i shall not err again. Lesson learned. But there you go kids, the minute you think you know everything – you don’t. And that’s a good thing.

Categories: Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Art of Editing (according to me) Vol. 1

Alright. Are we all situated? Should i take attendance? Ah screw it. Sit wherever you want. This here Blog is The Art of Editing 101. I say 101 because i’m probably not qualified to teach an upper level class on the subject. But i’m going to put a few thoughts out there in a few volumes. Whether you like it or not.

So sit down. Shush. Take notes. Yell at me. Whatever you need to do. But this is important. Seriously. No really. You in the back. I see you playing Pet Rescue. Put it away.

The first thing you need to know if you are a writer, or want to be a writer, is that editing is every bit as much an art as the actual writing process is. Start thinking of it like that. Everybody thinks that it’s a grand thing living in a wonderful floaty cloud on high, plinking away at your keyboards, creating brilliant new worlds, inventing characters. I have personally met artists who believe that the products of their fingers is spun gold straight from the start.

They are liars.

No one writes spun gold. No one. Not ever. Not once. Not in the entire history of all stories ever told.

What artists do is they start to understand that editing is every bit the process of art that drafts are. Possibly more so. Do not presume that your first, second, third, fourth, eighth effort is worthy of production and publication. It’s not. No really. Its not.

No. REALLY.

You aren’t going to believe me no matter what i say, so i’ll just put this out there as coldly as i can. If you are a self pubber, or e book writer, chances are this is going to happen to you. It’s happened to me. Here’s how it goes: You write something wonderful and you think: “oh my god! I’ve got it!” and you’ll rush to press with whatever it is, dreaming of riches falling out of the sky and the accolades and adoration of your fans.

There is even a tiny chance – infinitesimally small – that you’ll actually RECEIVE those things (which is far far worse, really, than if you don’t.)

Then, many years later, you will review that thing you rushed to press and you will invariably head-desk so fricking hard Mr. Miyagi will want to take lessons from you on how to break tables with your forehead. (another tip: this is going to happen anyway, but I hope to help mitigate the damage to furniture if I can.)

I have a sneaking suspicion that there are authors among us, very popular authors, who somehow get that fantastic ego ballooned to ludicrous proportions by enigmatic success and become impervious to this effect because… well… filthy luchre is still pouring in so they can’t be that bad… but they are.

Write well. No one gives a rats ass if you have money coming out of your rectum if you still can’t carry a tune and write a sentence. In fact, you’ll be an even bigger asshole. They’ll gladly stand around with their hands out smiling at you long enough to grease their palms but at the end of the day, you’re still going to have pros call you an inveterate shmuck.

So….

Sorry for that preamble. But that’s where it’s at.

Editing is an art. This is Volume One of the things i’ve learned. Subtitled even further as The Introduction. If you are content to fumble about taking chances and hoping for the best then don’t worry. You don’t need to come back. If you WANT to get better, I can tell you the things that have helped me.

Am I a great writer with fame and fortune to spare? Nope. But I am someone who more often than not does NOT put things out into the world that I would be ashamed to stand behind. I do not claim wealth and success… yet. And I don’t want to, until I feel like i’ve earned it.

Editing is an Art. Are you sick of me saying it yet? I’m going to keep saying it. It’s a beautiful thing in itself.

Take a picture. Go outside right now and snap a shot of any random thing. ANYTHING. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Got it? Now take a look at that picture. Is it art? No. It’s probably a shot of your cat, or maybe a shot of your car. Or the nearest snow bank. That’s fine. You aren’t a photographer. And I JUST asked you to take a shot of any random thing. But what’s the big difference between you and a professional photographer? A professional photographer would have set his composition. He would have framed it. He would probably have gone into some program and tweaked it. He might have cropped it, adjusted colors. If he was old school he would have used chemicals to do this and that mysterious alchemical thing we whisper about – photographic process. He might have used a different camera or a different film. He did all of this because he KNOWS how.

How does he know how to do this you ask?

Because he has screwed it all up before. Editing is the process by which you hone your talent. The more you edit, the better you are at drafting and setting up the originals, the less things there are to edit the next time.

It’s the art of getting yourself closer to what it is you want of your art. You had the idea, you know what you want to say, you know how you WANT your reader to feel. Now you must craft and hone and tinker and process and alter the color and get the notes right until that IS what they get.

Or die trying.

And don’t get me wrong… it might kill you.

End of The Introduction.

Coming Soon – Volume Two – The Basics.

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The End of the Road – Sort of: NaNoWriMo comes to a close but the story goes on.

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

So. I finished almost a week ago now and seeing as my ‘victory dance’ was rewarding myself with Dragon Age: Inquisition, i have been hanging out in Thedas since then. If you need me you’ll find me wandering more or less aimlessly through The Hinterlands, or some other bandit choked place.

But that’s not why you’re here are you? You’re here to find out how it all shook out and when you’ll be able to read my Nano masterwork. At least that’s what i hope you’re here for. Well… it’ll be a while now. This is my fourth completed Nano and this year i’ve had a big year in terms of writing. I finally finished working on the draft of The Stonemaidens Cup and have been up to my eyeballs in editing the massive thing. I finished writing and MOST of the editing of Meg Brown number 6: Meg Beats Cancer. I wrote a teleplay for the Nano group for Castle. I wrote a short story that i’m working on editing for Wattpad or somewhere similar, then there is Meg Brown 7 – last year’s Nano project which is just about finished in draft form and now The Normal Zoo. So really, in a weird way, Nano is a bit just like a day at the office.

But i love my office. And i love Nano and all the nano’ers reaching for their dreams.

The Normal Zoo isn’t finished. In fact, it’s gotten a bit bigger since ‘finishing’ the word count goal and will get bigger still as i work to complete it. It’s hard to see right now how much further i have to go. What i should do is take a breath that isn’t filled with Thedas air, take a gander at what i’ve got and start mapping out where to go next from here to finish it. Planning ahead this year (which i confess i didn’t do much of last year) really set me up well to coast on the word count for the first week or two and then it became another heavy slog where the story just puffed out like a popcorn kernal.

In the end, i’m starting to think The Normal Zoo MIGHT just become a series. I hope not. I have too many series already and aside from my Meg Brown Books and the Longmire novels i love by Craig Johnson, i’m just not into series. The trouble is that the book ballooned a little larger than i thought it would. I had more ground to cover than i figured. It’s possible that i’ll be able to chop it down in the end and get it under the word count for publication but it’s really hard to see that right now seeing as i’m at 55,000 or so and i think i JUST rounded the middle.

But again. It’s hard to tell.

So how was Nano this year? In some ways it was fantastic. I got to really tuck in to a story. When you tuck in like that you start with these people and you’re really sort of nervous around them. You don’t know them. They don’t know you. LIke any first time conversation, there’s a little awkwardness and unpleasant silences you or they desperately try to fill. Just like reading, though, you come to know them and they start surprising you and you start to love them a little more and loving them is what you need. Even the bad guys. Yes. I sort of love the Worsteads. I hate them, because they are awful people but they’re very vivid to me. But nothing beats Ashley and Lola and Mia and Emily. I didn’t expect Lola to be into old movies and film noir. That was lovely and we bonded over The Thin Man and My Man Godfrey. I didn’t expect Ashley to be so… funny. She’s really brave but doesn’t believe it at all and she’s… well… hopefully you’ll see. Yeah. I got to know them and for the moment anyway, i’ve left Lola in a bit of a low spot but she’s already trying to work her way out of it and i expect she’s going to get herself into a bit of trouble before then.

I miss the Chateau of Soot. I didn’t spend enough time there and would very much like to – when i rewrite it – give it it’s due. It’s a grand place, full of dust but very homey. I don’t know why it’s called the Chateau of Soot. It’s not actually sooty.

There’s nothing quite like having this thing bubbling and toiling in your head for a while – an idea that is pretty bizarre no matter which way you look at it – and finally sitting down and cranking out on it. It’s a flood like you see in a gum commercial, full of cool blue waves stanching the embers in your head that are threatening to get out of control. It’s a sudden cool ocean breeze on an otherwise sweltering day. It’s a lot of things. And that’s what Nano is all about in my opinion. You get to tell the world, for a full month, go screw yourself, i’m going to let my brain frolic like a deranged sweater-wearing bunny in a field made of minty evergreen grass. You get to put that imagination to use, sometimes for the first time since grade school recess. And yeah. It’s grade school recess.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

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Review: The Short Man by Joshua Cejka

Hey… Why not. I’ll reblog this one too cuz… it’s about my story The Short Man and it’s quite a good review. Thanks!!

Shadow and Clay

THE CONFESSION:
I made this author’s acquaintance through a Facebook NaNoWriMo support group. The group currently has 21,491 members, so it should not be close-knit, and yet the regular contributors have managed to grow into a very large (somewhat dysfunctional) family of writers. Many of the books I review will come from members of this group – I unfortunately do not have the time to spend right now on books that aren’t essential to my own works in progress, unless I’m already a fan of that author or were written by someone I know won’t waste my time.

As one of the admins of this group, Joshua Cejka is a prominent presence. It still took me too long to find and read his books, and I kick myself for that. At the time that I first read and reviewed “The Short Man”, I was not one of Joshua’s “friends”. After…

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The Darkest Hour (no, this isn’t about the Green Lantern…)

Excellent article. And boy am i ever at that point in Nano right now. Just sort of stumbling along. But i think i’ve got it.

Shadow and Clay

The saying goes that the darkest hour is just before dawn. It’s very true. I have tried my best to avoid being awake to experience it but, with winter creeping over us even here in Seattle, I find myself daily immersed in the deep pre-dawn gloom despite my best intentions.

I am certainly not the first to draw a parallel between this natural truth and the other conflicts that are faced in life – that IS what the saying is a metaphor for, after all. But it is a truth also encountered on the battlefield of the written page, while marching through what I like to call the F*cking Middle.

It is perhaps coincidental that NaNoWriMo takes place in November, when the darkness abruptly creeps over the Northern Hemisphere (I’m going to ignore the Southern Hemisphere for this analogy, because it messes everything up), until by November 20th we…

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