Monday, November 28, 2011


What is it about this freezer story that makes it so hard to write? SOMEBODY TELL ME!

Is it because I'm trying too hard? (That's what Ammii just suggested.)

Is it because I don't know the characters well enough?

Is it because there's not a lot of action?

Is it the format, writing the whole thing in the form of letters?

Is it paranoia?

Do I just suck?

Is it because I didn't spend enough time outlining?

Is it because trying to do nanowrimo psyched me out?

Is it because I took a wrong turn somewhere?


Maybe I'm just spoiled after having such an easy time on the last book.

Or maybe I remember it wrong, and it wasn't that easy.


Any other ideas? Aliens stole my brain?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Have No Idea

No idea what to write a blog post about. So I'll just share a bit of my current project, which is taking way too long and may be the hardest thing I've ever written.

The hardest to get right, I mean. Oh, it's a glorious, wonderful story in my mind. On paper, so far, it's dark and hopeless and introspective. Getting it where I want it to end will be an adventure. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible. Passages like the one below are what give me hope.

(But it's completely out of context, so if it doesn't sound as good to you as it does to me, that's no surprise.)

“I know there’s little time left,” Will said, the quality of his voice melting my retort. “There will come a moment when she needs you more than air, when the world is falling apart around her. She’ll need to be able to look into your eyes, hear you say everything will be alright, and have absolute trust that it will be.”
The first syllable of a laugh escaped my lungs. “But you just said not to lie. How can I tell her…”
“That’s your other problem. You have to believe it yourself.”
“But it won’t be alright. The world’s going to end, for crying out loud.” I folded my arms and looked back over my shoulder to be sure Mandy wasn’t hearing this. I had to swallow hard as her tiny hands built another small mound of dirt.
“It'll be alright.” Will’s whispered response sent a chill through my body like an early spring breeze. “But if all your lies are blown open on the ground around you when that moment comes, your little girl will die alone and afraid.” He rested his hand on my shoulder again, lightly this time. “And so will you.”
The hand withdrew and then the man, back to his little utility vehicle. Its springs creaked as he settled into the seat. “That’s what happened to me,” he said. “That’s why I’m alone, but you don’t want to hear that story, do you. Just don’t ever doubt that I know for myself, Thane Ryder.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

How I Invented Spam

Way back at the end of the last millenium, round about the time I was in middle school, my parents had a subscription to America Online. The company is called just AOL now, but back then they were the largest of two or maybe three major online services. (Bonus points if you can name the other two.) At first, they didn't even offer access through their service to the newborn world wide web. They had a self-contained ecosystem with different areas depending on what you wanted.

And AOL had chat rooms. Lots of 'em, organized by the topics that were supposed to be discussed there. A room was just a whole bunch of people all talking at once, and got real confusing sometimes. And people said whatever the heck they wanted. Some of them tried to be annoying on purpose. Especially the spammers.

Now this is where my story gets a little vague, because I frankly don't remember how we got started spamming. By "we" I mean my older sisters and myself.

If you look up the origin of the term "spam" as applied to unwanted email, you'll probably get the right story. It's all thanks to Monty Python's Flying Circus. One of their shows had a spam sketch, in a diner, with vikings. (This is all based on memory. I haven't seen it in years.) Everything on the menu has spam in it, and the vikings repeatedly interrupt other customers trying to order by breaking out into a song about lovely spam, wonderful spam.

At some point, being annoying young teenagers, we decided it was jolly good fun to do the same thing in the chat rooms of AOL.

For example:

Do you like spam?

I like spam.

I love spam.

Spam, spam, spam.

Spam, spam, spammity, spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam, wonderful spam.

Well, sure, but what does that have to do with spam?

Needless to say, this really ticked people off. Good fun.

And I have no idea if we saw somebody else doing this and decided to join in the fun, (which is likely,) or if we just came up with it on our own and invented online spamming. (Highly unlikely, but fun to imagine.)

That's right, kids. I was there. I remember when typing a colon and closing parenthesis didn't automatically generate a yellow smiley face. I remember when people still wondered what it meant!

And I know the difference between config.sys and autoexec.bat.

p.s. Compuserve and Prodigy. I'm such a nerd.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What Are We Really?

So, Krista sent a draft of a blog post to me and Amy because she talks about us in it. That was nice. Thoughtful. Maybe I'll return the favor.

See, I couldn't help but notice that Krista hardly mentioned herself. The post is about writing what you are, and she used me and Amy because we've written books that only we could have written.

I mean, I wrote a book combining suicide with unmanned vehicles and photography. In a lot of ways, it was the book I've always wanted to write. When it finally fell together and I came up with a plot, it was exciting. Writing was fun—if also depressing because of the subject matter and my own past. But Krista's right. It's definitely a book that only I could have written.

Here's the thing: Krista's novel (nicknamed Steve) is just as unique and personal. It's Frankenstein meets To Kill a Mockingbird and quietly powerful. The voice is wonderful and likable. It's a book that only Krista could write.


Sure, the premise is interesting, but I don't think Krista has personal experience with regeneration or what it was like to be a kid in the fifties. It's not based on any sort of uncommon experience or situation from her life—at least not so blatantly.

Maybe this is where the really personal aspects of storytelling come in, the deeper things that Krista talks about in her blog post. To me, this means feelings. Specifically, hopes and fears.

Why hopes and fears?

Because that's what's on my mind as I write my current project. I have no personal experience with the collapse of society, building spaceships, or the end of world. What I have are hopes that something impossible really could happen. What I have are fears of losing those closest to me, frustration with not knowing, and the love of a father for little girls who have their own darkest fears.

These are things that many people share, yet are still deeply personal. Being a father or a mother, a friend, a lover—they're different for each of us. Unique.

So, yeah. Like she says, write what you know from experience, but especially write what you feel. And then use your imagination to make it interesting. That's what Krista did with Steve, and I hope I can pull it off with the novel I'm working on.

I've never faced the end of the world, but I'm a daddy and a husband, and that's what I'm really writing about.

(By the way, that character in my book who's handy with a camera? He's way better than I am. I plead guilty to one count of Mary Sue;)