Archive for October, 2012


Taken Over By The Fear

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d talk about fear and how it can both help us and hinder us.

As writers, there’s plenty for us to be afraid of. We can be rejected by agents, have our work completely shredded by a critique group, make a grave mistake in a novel and not realize it until after it’s been published or we could suffer a horrible accident that leaves us unable to write. No matter how sensible or far-fetched our fears may be, the point is that we’ll have them. But when you push away those looming mountains of fear, the truth is that we’ll always have fear. If you write a great novel that sells well and is well-received, who’s to say that your next novel will be as magnificent? You may be able to scribble out several novels a year, but what happens if no one buys them or likes them? What if what happened to Robert Jordan happens to you and you die before finishing your latest book?

What if? What if? What if?

Fear can cripple us if we allow it. Or we can look at that fear as a motivator to help us become better writers. Afraid of being rejected by agents? Then do your research before you send off that query letter to make sure you’ve written the best novel and best query letter that you can. Just make sure that you don’t let fear keep you from sending it off when you know it’s ready. Afraid your critique group won’t like your submission? Then go through it forwards, backwards and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes your group has mentioned in the past. The same applies to avoiding massive mistakes in your novel.

Don’t try to keep fear out of your head. It’s what makes you human and it’s what makes you cautious. Instead, I think it’s better that we try to find the root of that fear and ask ourselves why we have that particular fear in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in life, but every now and then it really helps to sit down with yourself and sort out what’s going on in your head. For me, I find that cleaning is when I do my best thinking. When I need to step away or analyze a problem, I like to clean. Either that or I go for a walk. I think it’s the scrubbing away at a sink, dish or bathtub that symbolizes scrubbing away a problem or scrubbing to reveal the truth beneath the grit and grime.

Some of my fears are that I’ll run out of story ideas, that I’ll lose my writing ability/style, that what I write won’t match the ideas that I have in my head, that my writing career won’t go as I’ve planned and that I’ll find that one of my story ideas has already been written (I know this is common concern, but I always strive to be original).  The best that all of us can do is to just forge on and realize that the fear will follow us throughout our lives. Fear, like taxes, is something that occurs no matter who we are or what we do, so we might as well deal with it and move on with our lives. Besides, how different would like be if we didn’t have fear? Would it be better or worse?

Take care out there, and be safe tonight!

What are some of your fears about writing and how do you deal with them?

 

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Forging My Own Path

First off, I want to apologize for my lack of updates and for not keeping to my posting schedule. I’m sure you all know how life has a way of getting in the way of things. Part of my funk is that I’ve been having trouble coming up with things to post about, and the other is that I’ve just been lazy. Thankfully, I can be quite hard on myself and won’t allow myself to stray too far from my path for too long.

Now, on to this week’s post.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I see myself in five years, ten years, twenty years. I’d like to think that I’ll be a successfully published author who also writes comic book scripts on the side and maybe help with screenplays and the occasional video game script. I have no idea how or when all of that will come to pass, but there’s one word in that sentence that really sticks out in my mind.

Successfully

What is a successful writer? One who is on the NYT bestseller list, goes on book tours, has several novels published and is well-known in the writing community? Or is a successful writer one who takes comfort and pride in the choices and progress that they’ve made no matter how meager they might be?

It’s easy to get our definition of success tangled up with the general idea of success. And that’s especially true when we’re constantly bombarded with images and headlines about authors who make millions of dollars and can churn out multiple novels in a year. We think of that as a success even though we don’t know what those authors had to give up or what they had to do to get where they are. I’m not saying that every successful person has had to give up a part of themselves to get where they are, but I am saying that we have to look past the dollars and glossy book covers to see what truly makes an author a success.

Even more importantly, we have to discover our very own, very personal definition of success. And that’s something that I’m slowly but surely doing every day. As my dad always says, “all we can do is take it one day at a time.” Taking it one day at a time is hard for me since I meticulously plan things out and analyze past events. I’m either too focused on the future or scrutinizing the past that I forget to simply be in the present moment. And that’s probably another reason that I haven’t been keeping to a writing schedule.

I want to be a writer. I want to be a happy writer. I want to be a successful writer. But more importantly than all of those things are that I want to be me. Not John Grisham, Stephen King, Alexandre Dumas, Charlie Huston or Jim Butcher. Just O’Brian Gunn. All of them are great examples of what can be accomplished with words and ideas, but none of them can tell my story just as I can’t tell theirs.

So what’s my definition of success?

Being the best me that I can possibly be. I hope you’ll do the same.

What’s your definition of success and how do you plan on making that definition manifest?

Take care out there.

P.S. You can now check out some of my superhero themed flash fiction at Super Flash Fiction! “In-xperienced” and “Lies My Heroes Told Me”

It’s Time to Share!

I think I’ll share a bit of my sci-fi story SanGuine with you. This is a short that I wrote back in 2007 or so. It’s a story about a guy named Santino Guine who’s a BloodBurner, basically someone who can manipulate blood to heal, hurt and amplify a person’s natural abilities. This one was published on the e-zine Chaos Theory: Tales Askew (upper right corner). If you’re into sci-fi and noir, you’re gonna love it…either that or your blood will boil.

 

I am Jesus Christ.

At least to them I am. They touch the soles of my boots, I take them into my arms, and they are whole again. Then they pay me. Jesus was paid once, right? A Bible is hard to come by these days, so I wouldn’t know. Not that I would care to anyway. The only thing I care about right now is the woman sitting across the table.

“How do I know you won’t just take my money and sprinkle some smelly powder and wave incense through the air?” She waves her hand through the air. Her veins are verdant lightning bolts cracking across her arms, neck, and forehead.

“You don’t pay me until I patch you up.” I flick my Zippo open, touch flame to my cig, inhale, exhale, and a pile of red smoke barrels through the air.

The cocktail waitress stops by. I point at my empty glass. She nods with a synthetic smile and scuttles off.

“So what ails you, Miss…”

She shakes her head, or at least she tries to. Mid-shake her head starts spasming, twitching, and she becomes generally discombobulated. I smother a laugh behind a lungful of Alphrosnic tobacco.

“The BT Virus?”

She starts to nod, stops, and says, “Yes. I was in the Mentanet when I opened the wrong file. Next thing I knew someone was digitizing the contents of my brain, can’t even remember my own–” her hand shakes violently “–name.”

“How long?”

“Infected for eighteen hours.”

“Gonna be dead soon.” The cocktail waitress returns with my drink. I take it and dip my head. That’s as close as I get to saying thank you.

“I know, that’s why I came to you.” Her words are a high-pinched hiss. She throws a nervous glance over her shoulder. People in the bar could care less. They’re used to me and the people I bring in. There’s an understanding in the air. I’m the one that put it there.

“Are you always this callous to your…clients?” She grabs her drink and downs it before it sloshes and shakes from her hand.

I throw a glare over my specs. “I’m not the one dying, lady. Now, if you want to continue to live and think me a heartless brute of ill-repute, then hold your hands out.”

She holds out a hand.

“You do know the difference between singular and plural, don’t you?”

She holds both hands out.

When she glowers at me I see that the pupils and the whites of her eyes are coated in black with neon green characters written in digitized ink scrolling down her eyes. This woman only has two hours to live. I shove my smoke in the corner of my mouth and get to work.

I take out my pocket knife, flick it open. Of course she jerks back.

“Wha…Are you going to cut me?”

“Thas the only way I can heal you,” I say around the cylinder in my mouth.

“What if you have–”

“All diseases transmitted through the blood were cured five years ago. In order for me to cure you I have to bleed into you. The good stuff’s in my blood.”

Her fingers curl like wilting flower petals. They smell just as sweet.

“I don’t know if–”

“Lady, you’re gonna be dead in an hour.” I blink.

She blinks. And she puts her hands on the table soaked in alcohol.

I touch the blade to her palm and make a delicate incision. I do the same to her other palm and to both of mine. When blood starts to dribble out like a thing unleashed, I press our palms together and our blood mingles. Then I heal her.

First, I keep her blood from pouring out of the cut. I go into her arteries and veins and it feels as if my blood, her blood, is being shredded and gnawed apart by the virus. I follow the scattered paths of pestilence, burning the virus from her system as I do, and stop at the blood flowing to her brain. The virus burns hottest here. I feel the decay burrowing into her body, soaking into it like poisoned sunlight. It makes me shudder and quake and sweat in my own skin and I know that she must be doped up on—yes. I can feel a faint smudge of nascacin in her system to dull the pain. The virus is eating through it like candy.

I throw myself deeper, almost drowning in toxins and broken blood cells. I brush the source of the virus surrounding the chip at the base of her brain that allows her to connect to the Mentanet. The virus is a familiar one, one that works in chains. I grab hold of a few links, my body jerking as I take a bit of the virus into myself, and penetrate them down to the core to the moment of conception. It fights and thrashes against me like the devouring beast that it is, but I am stronger and take a drag on the cigarette in the mouth that I can no longer feel. My blood is like a star shooting and slicing through viral chains. I overload it with artificial light and store-bought love and machine-gun diligence and pretty soon the thing is unraveled. I soak every drop of her blood in antibiotics and increase her white blood cell count before I follow the reverse path to my own arteries and veins, drawing dissolving remnants of the virus into myself as I do.

I open my eyes and take my hands from hers, the cuts on our palms zipping shut.

The lady rocks back in her chair, her eyes now a startling shade of green. She lifts her arms and sees her veins are veins instead of twisting lines of poisoned poetry.

“Oh, my, my–” Her jaw comes unhinged.

“Yeah, speechless. I get that every time.” I take the SiphonSlider from my pocket and lay it on the table. “I also get paid every time.” I take my currency card from my pocket and slide it into the slot on the SS. “If you would oblige me.”

Elation shines beneath her skin, smothering her ire, and she slips her card into the other slot. The LCD screen comes to life and rattles off our names and account numbers. She touches her name: Eloise Dictana.

“How much?” Eloise asks.

“Ten thousand credits.” I pinch my cig between my index and middle fingers as I sip my drink. Ice clinks as I stare at her over the rim.

“I don’t have that much money.” An ugly dent batters the middle of her forehead.

“You have enough money to afford a Mentanet chip and nascacin painkillers. Trust me, ten thousand is a drop in the bucket for you.” I nod at her drink. “And if you wanna look dirt poor, don’t order two glasses of Trissjoie.” I sip at my cheap Byroqdu.

I can feel her blood warm, but not from the virus this time. She opens a window on the SS, keys in the amount and transfers it to my account. A line of arrows trail from her end of the screen to mine and both the machine and my heart give a content little chime.

TRANSACTION COMPLETE

Eloise snatches her card out as I calmly retrieve mine.

“I find out your money’s funny I put the virus back in your blood, only this time I lace it with something truly nasty.” I look up at her as she stands. “Remember the Silent Syndrome scare in ’06?”

The blood I just healed drains from her face. She leaves.

I finish my cig, smash it out, and reach for another. The singer on stage is belting out something about poisoned love, and don’t I know it. I like to think of it as more that love poisoned me, poisoned all of us. At least it would if I ever tried the junk. Not to say that I have anything against love, just that I don’t see the point of it. Too much work and not enough pay. Women today are worse than they were when the sun was still burning. Crazy beautiful broads. I throw back a drink. Here’s to women and poisoned love.

 

I think it could work as a series. What do you think?

P.S. Be sure to check out episode four of Dark on the Rock! Share and vote, please!

Why I Write What I Write

 

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I fell in love with fiction and fantasy. But I do remember there was an allure in exploring possibilities and impossibilities. Maybe it was growing up in Alabama where nothing ever happened that drove me to immerse myself in worlds where adventure was a part of everyday life, magic occurred as naturally as the wind and traveling in a spaceship was a standard practice. Reality was too bland, too boring for me, and reading was an escape from that. But reading fantasy was like dreaming while still awake. I guess fantasy and sci-fi were my Inception.

I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I’ve always been a daydreamer. I think you’d probably have to visit me in a psychiatric ward if it weren’t for a creative outlet like writing. And maybe that’s all that writers, artists, poets and other creative types are, functioning psychotics. Rather than allowing our insanity to consume us and drive us insane, we channel it and work with it to creative something…more, something beyond what we see and experience in everyday life.

I know that the world we live in holds much splendor and wonder, but sometimes all of that magnificence needs to be magnified times a thousand. I don’t want to travel in an airplane, I want to lift my arms and fly under my own will. I don’t want to simply travel to different states and nations, I want to travel to different dimensions. I want to live in the worlds I see in games like Final Fantasy, see what it would be like to have actual superpowers and have a vampire for a roommate.

For a while now I’ve been on a superhero kick. There’s just something about exploring the idea of how having superpowers changes who you are, either in a small way or a big way. Would the world be a better place if Captain America really existed? How different would the world be if it had a Captain Japan or a Captain Africa? What if the Avengers were villains instead of heroes? What if there was one person with the power to solve all of the world’s problems but they decided not to? I hope to write comic book scripts as well as novels someday, and maybe even a video game script or two. Even though I’m not up to date on the latest happenings in the comic book/graphic novel world, I’ll always be a proud comic book nerd.

When it comes to fantasy, I’m enamored with the idea of creating a new world, new rules, new races, new technology and new ideas. I believe that fantasy and sci-fi are the purest forms of creation. The genres force authors to dig deep, unravel thoughts and ideas that they’ve had since they were old enough to comprehend in order to make manifest a new universe where those thoughts and ideas don’t mean a thing. I have one idea for a fantasy story that’s been in my head for years. I dabble with it every now and then, and I’m just now starting to feel “old” enough to make an honest effort of writing it. If I do, I think I’ll have to pull  a George R.R. Martin and spend a few years on it.

As much as I love brazen, in-your-face fantasy and fiction, I also love the subtle nuances of a fiction or thriller. These are the kinds of stories that can keep me up at night wondering if the events and characters pressed between the pages of a book could actually exist. Movies like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy make us believe that there could be a real life Bruce Wayne out there somewhere. While  characters like the Joker and Bane may not exist, the characteristics of those characters most certainly do. That is the type of fiction that I hold closest to my heart, the kind that really makes you sit down and examine your life, the world you live in and how you fit in it.

Fiction, sometimes it’s closer to the truth than reality itself.

Take care out there.

What are some of your favorite genres and why? 

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my serial DARK ON THE ROCK on JukePop Serials! Vote for it if you like it, and be sure to check back this Friday for Episode Three.