Tag Archive: raw


King Con

So this past weekend I attended my second Denver Comic Con. Aside from the absolute insane lines, I had another fantastic time. I actually met J. August Richards from “Angel” and the upcoming “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and showed him my driver’s license to prove that my last name is Gunn like the character he played on “Angel.” There was also a panel with Greg Weisman, Khary Payton, Christopher Johnson, Phil LaMarr and the indefatigable Dee Bradley Baker, all of whom worked on one of my favorite shows, “Young Justice.” Kelly Hu was also there to share how winning a beauty contest was the most life-changing event that could’ve happened to her. It was really nice to feel all of that energy, passion, excitement and that sense of community with other fans in the audience. I’m not one to spaz out about meeting celebrities or public figures, but there is something to be said about someone who enjoys what they do so intensely and are willing to take time out of their busy schedule to meet with the hundreds and thousands of people who appreciate all that they do.

I left feeling encouraged, inspired, sad (because the con was over) and rejuvenated. While geeks and nerds usually keep to themselves and stay in their shells, we all seem to come alive at events like Comic Con where we’re around our kind and around people who understand why we get so excited about characters who are drawn and come alive on a page or characters we see on our television screens who are involved in lives of fantasy and science fiction. While we know these characters and scenarios are fiction, the devotion and passion that goes into bringing it all to life is something that just resonates with “the true believers.” It made me want to share more about what I’m writing and working on and who I am, especially the Q&A session with Nelson Ellis.

Nelson Ellis is the actor who’s probably best known for playing Lafayette on “True Blood.” During his panel, Nelson was as open and honest as anyone could be, very raw, very real. He told us about how his parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of him playing a gay man, but that he did it despite that. As I sat in the audience watching and laughing with him, it was clear that I was watching a true actor who was just as comfortable fully becoming another character as he was with fully not only becoming himself, but exposing his true self. And exposing his true self to complete strangers.

The entire weekend rekindled something inside of me that I’ve allowed to diminish over the past few months. That sense of being raw and being open with people. I’m already writing out my pains, scars, fears and fantasies through my stories and sharing them with the world, so why shouldn’t I keep doing that with the real me? I might not become a household name anytime soon, but I definitely want to be known as a writer who clearly enjoys his work, hardships and all, and isn’t afraid of sharing the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly with his readers. Besides, who knows where I’ll end up, what I’ll end up writing and who I’ll end up writing it with.

I see now that Comic Con isn’t just a convention, it’s a sort of revival.

Take care out there

 

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Some authors can write the beginning of a book, short story or chapter off of the cuff. They like to see where the story goes without drawing a map to the final destination. I’ve done this myself a time or two, but I find that my work comes out best if I write my ideas out, look at them and arrange them into a story. No matter what school of thought you subscribe to, sitting down to write a map of where you intend to go with your story does have its advantages.

I like to write my stories a bit like TV shows, where each chapter is an episode and each book can be considered a season. In TV shows, the writers always get together and have a writers meeting to discuss where they are in the season, what the next episode is going to be about, which characters and what story lines will be included in the episode and how the episode they’re currently writing will impact the future of the show. I like to do the same thing whenever I outline the next chapter of a novel or a short story.

I’m currently working on finishing up my second novel. My first attempt at writing a novel is actually going to be the third novel in the series. I was halfway through when I realized that my characters have a backstory that I had yet to fully explore in order to do the novel and the series justice. At first I thought I could do that with just one novel, but it turned out that I actually needed two. In order to figure out the backstories of my characters, I had to get to know them. In order to do that, I had to sit down and “interview” them, see who they were before I met them, what they liked, who their family was, what clothes they liked to wear and what kind of music they listened to. Outlining is a great way to not only discover every facet of your story, but to also figure out who your characters are.

I admit that there is a thrill to simply diving into a story to see where it will take me. The act of raw creation brings a certain sense of urgency and an unpolished refinement that you just can’t get when you outline. Rather than sitting down and interviewing your characters, you allow them to possess you and tell the story purely from their point of view. It’s a bit like listening to the elegance of orchestral music versus the unbridled ferocity of heavy metal. One is very structured, very outlined and the other is undiluted and restrained. Yet both have their target audiences.

So when it comes to the question of outlining, I think it’s best to try your hand at both. If you’re used to outlining, you might want to try writing a poem to exercise those creative mental muscles. Poetry is another one of those raw forms of creation. Rarely do you hear of a poet, rapper, MC, musician or singer who outlines their material. Often they have the music, the verse or the song inside of them and they simply sit down and let it out, allowing it to write itself as they go. After the muse has passed, they go back and clean it up, much like a writer edits their work. If you’re more used to writing off of the cuff and would like to outline more, a suggestion to make the transition is to write out character histories or make up a character and write out their backstory. This will allow your mind to focus, discover and think before putting pen to pad or finger to key.

Take care out there.

Which do you prefer? Outlining or writing off of the cuff? Any particular reason why?  

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?

 

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”

Back to Basics

 

Writers not only have to be writers, but business people as well if we’re serious about making  a career out of our passion. We spend time learning about the publishing industry, how to market ourselves, where to find the best critique group for our level of skill, finding agents and more. All of this can be very exciting and fresh, but it can also make us forget why we set out to become a published author in the first place.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been slacking in my writing. I’ve still been working on my writing career, I just haven’t been working on the very thing that will support that career: my writing. I’ve been reading articles, trying to find software to create my own cover for my JukePop Serials story (any suggestions would be welcome) and writing to pay the bills.

Last night I had a small mental breakdown. I was reading an article about how poor publishing is worse than not being published at all. I realize that we need to know what we may be getting in to it before we get in to it and I appreciate the knowledge. But one thing I didn’t appreciate was the way it made me feel, like attempting to become a published author is one of the most risky and foolish decisions a person could choose to do with their life. In the time it takes to write a novel, find an agent, find a publisher, get a book deal and finally see your book on shelves is roughly the same amount of time it takes to finish medical school or earn a PhD. I realize that becoming a medical doctor takes time and money where becoming a published author only takes time and luck. But sometimes it seems as though it’s smarter and less painful to simply follow a different passion, a more sensible passion.

So why do writers do it? Why do we put ourselves through the rejection, pain, setbacks and pitfalls of the journey to authorhood?  Why do we keep faith in our hearts that one day we’ll join the ranks of other successful authors even though we know what’s waiting for us out there? Why?

I asked myself all of these questions last night, wondering if maybe I should focus on another career goal and put writing on the back burner for a few years. At 27 I feel as if I should stop dreaming and wake up and join the real world. But then I remembered how blessed I am. I remembered when I first discovered that I loved to write. I remembered how there is nothing more in this world I’d rather do then tell stories, explore, examine and imagine.

I remembered the magic of writing.    

I don’t want to look at my life ten years from now and wish that I’d kept pursing my first passion. Something could happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. But I won’t be there to experience that something if I don’t keep going and keep believing that whatever or Whoever brought me this far isn’t done with me yet, that my journey could be nothing like the horror stories I’ve read. Times are different, my path is different and my circumstances may not be the same.

Almost anyone can be a doctor, graphic designer, business owner or any other practical job. And I’m not demeaning those occupations whatsoever. But not everyone can be a writer, world weaver, yarn spinner, storyteller. Or journey is a different one, with different obstacles and frustrations. And there’s also a different joy and satisfaction associated with what we do. I believe that writing is  the closest I’ll come to finding out what it’s like to bring life into this world.

So not only will I stay in the game, I’ll do my damndest to change the game and win the game. And I hope to see you at the finish line.

Take care out there.

Origin Story

I guess now is a good time to expose my roots and tell you how I discovered that I wanted to be a writer.

I’d first have to thank my Aunt Ann. Without her love for reading, I don’t think mine would’ve been so strong. I remember sitting with her at my grandma’s house reading a book. That little seed would only grow and flourish as the years went on and I started to grow up. I mostly read fantasy novels, anything that was imaginative and took me away from the “real world.”

When I was…about 14 or 15, I decided that I wanted to be a photojournalist. I think it was a combination of watching Spider-Man and The Secret World of Alex Mack (anyone remember that show?). I never actually went out and bought a fancy camera, but I do remember taking lots of pictures for a short period of time. Then somehow I stumbled on fan fiction! For the uninitiated, fan fiction is where you write your own stories for TV shows, adding your own twist to them. It was like being pushed into an ocean with no idea of how to swim. But I was more intrigued than anything else. I had discovered an underground dimension, a galaxy of parallel universes.

So I started writing fan fiction. My first was a Power Rangers fan fiction. Yep, Power Rangers. I was a HUGE fan when I was young. So I guess I have them to thank too for helping me discover my passion for writing. While attempting to come up with ideas for my storyline, I was still under the impression that I wanted to be a photojournalist, even though ideas for original stories were constantly pouring into my head.

I remember one story was about a group of teenagers who were mystical ninjas with elemental based powers who had to travel to a different dimension and battle their evil twins. Another was about two sorceresses, a vampire/werewolf hybrid and a seer who were part of an evil group called The Deranteke who were attempting to bring back their dark lord…all while staving off the attempts of other baddies who wanted to curry favor with said dark lord. Sounds like bestselling material, eh?

This is where I began my dalliance with exploring the “bad guys.”

I believe I finally decided I wanted to become a writer when I started writing the Bo Quintin series. Bo was a feral (a werewolf who doesn’t transform) and bounty hunter who received his assignments from an unknown divine source. I remember how much enjoyment it brought me to sit at the keyboard fleshing out this supernatural world and coming up with ideas. I even had a playlist for when I was writing fight scenes, and to this day writing a good fight scene is one of my absolute favorite things to do when writing. I was writing the Bo Quintin series when Angel and Buffy were on, and I was most definitely influenced by the Whedon world. I even had a spin-off series for one of my characters much like Angel was a spin-off of Buffy.

This is also where I developed the habit of jumping from project to project and starting things and not finishing them.

Next I visited my good friend Noel  in Kansas where I saw the movie Sin City.

This is where I was introduced to my good friend noir.

I was immediately held in thrall by this film. The colors, the music, the dialogue, the lighting, the story. It felt like a dark angel had descended from the corners of heaven, kissed me on the lips, blew out my soul like a jittering old car engine and gave me wings of my own. I remember going back to her apartment after the movie and starting my own noir story, one about an assassin and a vigilante named Vigil and Whisper. They were both gay and lived in a world where there were no women, save one, and they only operated at night. “Sons of Entropy”, as I called it, was some of my absolute finest work up until that point. I had cowboys, clones, a femme fatal, swords, strippers, courtesans, a gritty romance, drugs and the classic twisted noir ending.

I think I need to pull that story out and take a look at it. Who knows, could get it published after I polish it!

After “Sons of Entropy” came “SanGuine” and various other short stories, some of which I tried to get published and received my first rejection letters. I’m not sure when I got the idea for my first novel, “Fury Us,” but I do remember that it was originally ” X-Treme Quarantine.” I started writing it when I realized that there was much more to the story, and that I had to go back before writing about the XQtioners.

Presently, I’ve written an ish-ton of short stories, some finished, some not, one novel, some scripts, several poems and I’ve got about three chapters to finish on my second novel. I’ve come a long way, and I know that I have even further to go. I’m glad that I decided to share this, even the part about writing Power Ranger fan fiction, which I was apprehensive about. I guess you never know where “that moment” will come from. It’s always nice to go back and retrieve wisdom, passion and smiles that you’ve experienced on a personal journey.

Now, back to working on my latest short story!

Take care out there.

Artists have to be some of the bravest and most vulnerable people on Earth. To go on stage and perform a poem, showcase your artwork, sing an original song or allow someone to read your work takes great courage. It’s akin to undressing your soul and allowing others to gaze upon your naked spiritual flesh, every scar, every burn, every curve, every freckle, mole, wrinkle, stretch mark, every part of yourself. They are the brave and the bold, fighting for our freedom to be more than human. And I am proud to be among their ranks.