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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At Trash Film Orgy's Carnival of the Dead

I attended the Trash Film Orgy's first Carnival of the Dead this Saturday and it was a blast! For those of you who don't know what Trash Film Orgy is, TFO is a production studio that makes both their own B-rated sci fi and horror movies as well as holds screenings of classic B-rated flicks by other production companies. That night was TFO's scream screening of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead held at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. The movie was preceded by a zombie walk through the vicinity and their Carnival of the Dead at Roosevelt Park before that. I got to meet several great people there, dead and alive (okay, they were dressed as dead, as in the living dead) and I took pictures of some people who were in some really groovy ghoulie costumes, including the Sac City Roller girls who are a women's roller derby team and who I had the pleasure to met for the first time.Check out the photos below!






Kind of resembles a cross between Uncle Fester and one of the Plan 9 ghouls.





That's mwa shadow snapiiiiing a photo! (To do a play on an Andy Gibb song from the '70s! You can call this a shadow selfie, I guess.)




Three of the Sac City Rollers with yours truly (and another undead dude in the background who just happened to decide to jump into the photo). I'm holding up the Rollers' promo sign, though it didn't come out too clearly in the photo. 



The works of a carnival. 



Yours truly made sure he got a head shot of this, uh, head shot! 





 Michael Jackson's back! (From the grave, of course.) No, really: God, rest his soul.




This soothsayer was nice enough to give me a free reading, though it didn't turn out to be true: I didn't attend the zombie walk or screening that night like she said I would. Well, nobody's perfect. But the fortune cookie strip she gave me held true: "All facts are true." But it came without the cookie; a Tootsie Roll lolly pop came with it instead! I can go for that. (No, the strip was not at the centre of the Tootsie Pop.)



And here's the fortune teller going into her mystical trance. (Okay, so it's just the blazing sun light radiating on her devilish horns.)




And a mad scientist picking up after those sloppy zombies. (Didn't their parents teach them any table manners and not to litter?)




Until next time . . .






Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hot Summer Reading

We are officially one week into summer, even though in some parts of the nation, here in Sacramento, California included, the season’s sizzling weather had already begun weeks ago. And like those ancient societies that centered their actions around the seasons and made festivals to please their deities, summer, as with the other seasons, is a time to make plans and goals. One of these for me is in the form of a reading list. Summer provides most of us extra time to catch up on those books that we said we would read, passionately wanted to read but didn’t because we didn’t get around to it. It’s also a time of new book releases, which are equivalent to the flickers’ summer movie releases. This is the time to plan a list of what we would like to read on the pool deck, on a long trip or at the local AC’d cafĂ© or library on those dragon breath weather days when we just don’t want to go out yet don’t want to pile up on the energy bill running the air conditioner in our houses. Here’s my summer sci fi/fantasy reading list below (not necessarily in any particular order)!


Across the Universe,   Beth Revis (currently reading): a YA space opera-mystery involving an unseen killer on board a generation ship.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: This involves a pond in which one of the characters imagines to be an ocean. Wherever there’s an ocean there’s a beach. Therefore this book is perfect for summer reading!

Jack Glass, Adam Roberts: another science fiction mystery tale involving a murderer but with a more atom punk touch in that it uses elements of golden age sci fi.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: The critically acclaimed novel about women in the near future whose rights have been taken away.

The Manitou, Graham Masterton: This novel about the evil spirit of a medicine man was made into a movie only three years after its 1975 publication. I’ve seen the movie which was made really good as underrated as it was. Now I would like to see how much more is in the book bearing in mind that most movie adaptations of novels don’t include all scenes or even all characters from the original stories. 

Batman comics: This includes both Batman and Detective Comics, particularly from the ‘70s. For me summer has always been Batman season because that’s when I got to know Batman most when I was a kid around six or seven years old. This was particularly through reruns of the campy ‘60s TV series, and even though today I feel like it never did the Dark Knight Detective justice with its rainbow/Technicolor sets and daylight dominant settings it’s what started me on Batman. Today, I’m trying to catch up with the true Dark Knight by reading the comics from just about every era except the ‘50s and ‘60s when Batman became more of a cut and dry trusted hero of the people, like Superman, rather than that questionable more-or-less anti-hero. Lately, I’ve been trying to collect and read the ‘70s comics, since they’re more in my current budget and also because that’s the decade Batman was returned to his true dark hero role.

1001 Arabian Nights (Author anonymous): This is a thick book that’s pages can add up to almost the number in the title. Being a slow reader, I know I couldn’t read it in one summer but since it consists of several tales the ones I would like to read before the summer’s out are “Aladdin” and one or two of the Sinbad tales. “Aladdin” has influenced Hollywood films since the 1940s at least, including a Disney animated feature in the ‘90s, and Sinbad has been adapted to a series of movies whose special effects were done by one of my long time sci fi/fantasy Hollywood special effects heroes, the late Ray Harryhausen. Now it’s time to read the original stories, and if I read Arabic I would read the story in its original language but, unfortunately, I don’t.

Galactic Energies,Luca Rossi:   A short story collection, and again not that I’ll read them all during the summer, but I’d like to get started on a few.

A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The first of Burroughs’s Mars series of novels. I read a couple of his Tarzan books, one each of the past two summers. Now this summer I’d like to give his Mars series a chance.

That’s my summer reading list, at least for sci fi fantasy reading. What’s your reading list for the summer? Need help getting started? Let me suggest yours truly’s short story collection, The Fool’s Illusion. In fact, there’s a great story in there that may just be perfect for the pool deck, or for reading at the beach or lake. It’s about the search for a legendary sea monster (not the Loch Ness monster, this one’s in the Mediterranean). If you like simulating your surroundings to a great horror-sci fi story, then this is the one to read in one of the above settings I just mentioned. Better yet, you may even want to read it on the water! That is, if you’re not faint of heart or prone to fear-based accidents.

You can purchase Fool’s Illusion at Amazon, and if you do so between now and Tuesday July 1st you can take advantage of the special Kindle Matchbox deal! And you don’t even need a Kindle device to read the Kindle version! Just go to The Fool’s Illusion’s Amazon page and click the “free app” link underneath the Kindle price. What is the Kindle Matchbox deal? It’s a special where if you buy a print copy of my book you can have a Kindle copy of it for free! If you don’t like reading print or can’t think of anybody who does who you can give the print version to as a gift, then you can purchase the Kindle copy alone for only 99 cents! Again, you don’t need a Kindle device to read the Kindle copy; you can read it on any Windows, Apple or Android device. Just visit the Kindle free app store!

Until next time . . .







Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Author Supporting His Local Bookstore on a Budget


Photo Credit: Amazon

Saturday I was at The Avid Reader in Davis considering buying Neil Gaiman’s newly released paperback version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I had told myself, since the day of Gaiman’s novel’s original hardcover release a year ago, that I would purchase Ocean as soon as it released in paperback keeping in mind the $8 “pocket” size mass market version. When I saw that the paperback was a $16 trade version, I had second thoughts. I thought that if I’m going to pay $16 for a trade version of Ocean, then I’ll just try to get it used on Amazon. I could probably purchase a hardcover version of it on there for less than the paperback version offered at brick-and–mortar stores. However, while considering my budget, I try to purchase my books at my local independently owned bookstore, in which Avid Reader is, as much as possible. So I ended up buying another author’s book I had been considering, Beth Revis’ YA space opera, Acrossthe Universe. Even though that was a trade edition itself, it only cost me 10 bucks. Buying at an independently owned book store will not only keep much of the money in the local community but will also strengthen the local literary culture.

Photo Credit: Amazon

As a person who believes in contributing to community and local culture, I try to keep the money at home. By this I mean that when I purchase at locally owned stores, the money for those purchases are going back into those stores’ community. I admit that I’m not an economics expert, but I don’t want all my money for a purchase to go to some suit in a corporate tower across state or even on the opposite side of the nation (I’m on the West coast) who doesn’t give a damn about who purchases the products they distribute but just want the money from those purchases. Generally, the CEOs don’t give a damn about the individual communities they’re selling or distributing  to yet never see. They don’t care about the culture surrounding their products, in this case books. They don’t care who’s who in the various branches of their business across the nation and the world over. Those branches are just units of a machine to them, an impersonal network that pumps in the cash.

The locally owned, independent bookstores, the few that are left at least, don’t only care about the books they sell but also the people they are selling them to who are often avid readers. They are enthused about the books and the literary culture surrounding them, wanting to enhance that culture, and so are ready to promote local authors especially newer ones. That’s why you’ll see book signing events at these indie stores that feature authors who may be known around the community but often not worldwide via a best seller’s list. They tend to cater to the people in the local area and are less worried about how they‘re going to market a particularly book or service in a branch in Australia. Like the public library, they sponsor programs for both adults and children, often book reading clubs for the adults and storytelling time for the children and thematic arts and crafts to go along with it. They support community-wide events such as art walks and will often display local fine artists’ work in their stores. And so you can almost be sure that even when you purchase a big publisher’s book, such as Harper’s, at a locally owned bookstore, a significant portion of the money is going to go to the community at least through city, or maybe even county, revenue if nothing else. It, or the majority of it at least, won’t go to some big chain store’s headquarters that most shoppers haven’t even seen.

It’s true that chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble (which I heard has not been doing too well with their sales and may go the way of Borders) have their book culture events, such as book club meet-ups. But they’re often for the reason of selling a single book or series of books such as the Harry Potter or The Hunger Games series and so these clubs or their individual meet-ups often are based on big selling titles such as these two. And so big chain bookstores centering their literary cultural events around these best sellers is more of the agenda of pumping more money out of more consumers to go into the company rather than the local community. It’s an agenda that cares little about the culture of books in general, even within certain genres such as sci fi/fantasy, romance or thriller and more about the individual product being sold and the increase (as opposed to the simple maintenance) of profits.

I’m not saying I don’t want to see my books, currently TheFool’s Illusion, sold beyond my local community. Most of us writers want to make sufficient money off our books and those of us who are lesser known can only do it by distributing our work beyond our home areas. I’m just saying that I want my books to be sold for the love of books themselves rather than to simply make ever increasing profits off of them. If those profits continue to increase inevitably then good, I can definitely go for that! But I’m going to make my books products of the local community rather than of the impersonal corporate system that many best sellers too often get caught up in and, when they do, the major publishing houses rather than the authors have too much control of how their sequels (if any) and the authors’ future works are written.

I’m a member of my home community of Sacramento, not a member of the global corporate system and so I’m going to market my books among the locally owned stores here way before I do to big chain stores elsewhere. I want people the world over to buy my books, sure. But I want people in my home area to also buy and read them and so I want to support the local literary culture. Like I was born here, Fool’s Illusion was also born here. We’re both members of the local community and so we’ll support that community first and foremost.


I’m in the process of pitching Fool’s Illusion to locally owned bookstores. Expect to see live signings by me in the Sacramento area soon. Exactly where and when, I’ll mention in upcoming blog entries. So keep tuning in.

Until next time . . . 

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

CW’s upcoming ‘iZombie’ deviating too far from its comic book origins?

iZombie vol. I graphic novel cover
Photo Credit: Vertigo


DC comics announced last Thursday, May 8, that The CW officially decided to make the Vertigo comic book, “iZombie”, into a live series. Though not as popular among comic book fans as The Walking Dead has been that has also been running as a TV series for the last four seasons, it shouldn’t be surprising that it has been given the official permission to be adapted into a TV series during this time of a zombie craze in pop culture. The iZombie comic and graphic novel series is my “Walking Dead”, since I never cared for The Walking Dead comics or television show. And so I was proud to hear that iZombie would be adapted to TV. That is until I read about several changes in the original storyline that could make the series resemble almost nothing of its comic book origins.

What’s so different about this comic book, created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred and published by DC imprint Vertigo, is that unlike most other zombie comics the young heroine, Gwendolyn (“Gwen”), herself is a zombie. She’s intelligent regardless of her occupation of grave digger which she takes up in order to access the brains of fresh corpses for food in order to stay “alive” and so to keep her human state of mind and from going into a total rot that would cause her to lose her feminine beauty forever. (Okay, at least relative feminine beauty since she’s a little pale, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say.) But there is a price to pay for eating these brains and it’s not taken out of her paycheck: many of the corpses are ones of murder victims whose disturbing memories invade Gwen’s mind and in order to get rid of them she must track down the murderers and bring them to justice.

But now here’s the problem with the upcoming TV series: regardless of the main character’s name change from Gwen to Liv, who is to be played by Rose McIver (Once Upon a Time), she has been given the role of coroner in place of grave digger. A beautiful heroine who is a med student and helps the cops solve homicide cases with her zombie psychic ability taking the role of grave digger probably wouldn’t look so good to a television audience. Which brings us to producers Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) and Diane Ruggiero’s other rewrite of the script. In the comic, Gwen often solved these cases on her own or with her supernatural friends (a were-terrier and the ghost of a ‘60s girl). Because of these rewrites—the main character’s role of coroner technician, her partners in crime being people of the mainstream (let alone living) such as the cops and her medical examiner supervisor—CW’s iZombie may be not much more than just another front for a crime series. A front to gratify a Hollywood inclined audience with gun violence exploitation and the all too old car chase scenes, all for the purpose of studio and television network executives to make profits off of that audience that has unwittingly seen these same old tropes all their lives.

Not that TV crime drama shouldn’t cross over into the horror and sci fi genres. There has been horror and science fiction television that has crossed with the crime genre in ways that support the storyline really well. This is the case with Fox’s Sleepy Hollow which involves Ichabod Crane having awakened from a 250 year long sleep to the present day and helps the skeptical cops track down the Headless Horseman who continues hacking off people’s heads. The ‘90s had the X-Files in which FBI Agents Mulder and Scully attempted to solve classified cases involving UFOs and the paranormal. The show’s ‘70s predecessor, Kolchak: The Nightstalker, involved a reporter who investigated similar cases connected with crime. Similarly, any decent adaptation of iZombie definitely calls for solving murder cases since the comic book often involved such storylines due to the nature of the main character.

The real problem here is that, unless we’re given further notice that the other supernatural characters from the comic book will be included, the supporting characters in the iZombie TV series would probably drown out the paranormal elements of the plot making it come across more as a crime drama than a horror or dark fantasy. This would be regardless of DC.com’s Tim Beadle’s claim that the show will be like no other zombie series, which, to an extent, he would be right. It wouldn’t be like Walking Dead which is based more on the ideas of George A. Romero’s 1968 movie, Night of the Living Dead, and so is more apocalyptic in theme. Besides the comic book’s twists and as Thomas himself says, it’s not apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic and so it takes place in an everyday life setting. So on the level of zombie television shows and movies it may be very different. However, on the level of supernatural shows especially ones involving psychics assisting with homicidal investigations, such as Medium and Psych, it may not be that different.

We can only hope the producers have more surprises up their sleeves and so will reveal further twists to this series that make up for the above mentioned old TV tropes as the production of the pilot episode comes to completion, which an expected date for has not yet been revealed.


Do you think iZombie as a TV series has potential to differentiate itself from other paranormal crime dramas? Feel free to leave your comments in the box below.

Until next time . . . 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: The Age Atomic


Photo Credit: Adam Christopher/Will Staehle/Angry Robot Books

I’ve had numerous projects that I’ve been working on for the last several weeks, one of them being the continuous marketing of Fool’s Illusion. This includes contacting book reviewers to review my book. If any of you out there are book reviewers and care to review Fool’s Illusion, let me know by emailing me at   strosejr@gmail.com and we can talk about it.  Please indicate “Book Review for Fool’s Illusion” in the subject line when emailing me. I’m also in the middle of pitching Fool’s Illusion to local bookstores hoping they’ll sell it on their shelves for me and so I can get a cut of the profit. All this while I’m still trying to keep on top of writing new fiction as well as articles that I write for both Examiner.com and here. And so now that brings us to my newest book review of another author’s work that I have posted here at the Fantastic Site in which I’m hoping to post many more in the near future. So take a look at my most current below and feel free to leave any comments or questions in the box.


Book Review: The Age Atomic
Book’s Author: Adam Christopher
Publisher: Angry Robot
Year Published: 2013

For almost 30 years science fiction literature has seen the rise of punk. It started with cyber punk in the mid 1980’s, which resulted in steam punk in the latter part of the decade, and then many lesser known punk subgenres such as splatterpunk (which is more of the horror genre), biopunk, dieselpunk and atompunk. While cyberpunk speculates cyber culture of the future, steam-, bio-, diesel- and atompunk speculate culture and society through alternative histories and time streams. They re-imagine certain periods in history using elements of today’s society, science and technology. They also speculate retro futures and so imagine futures that are more directly derived from particular eras. Steampunk does this with 19th century Victorian society, dieselpunk with society of the 1910s through ‘40s, and atompunk with mid 1940s to mid 1960s society (though it can be debated that it covers a longer period). While steampunk imagines history with today’s computer technology powered by steam as opposed to electricity, silicon or transistors, dieselpunk does this with early 20th century industrial motorised technology and atompunk with atomic science and cold war politics. Atompunk re-imagines history with robots, mad scientists, and ray guns along with today’s speculation of parallel universes, alternative histories, and even internet and social media to a degree. It also involves many of today’s social issues at a suggestive or superimposed level. British author Adam Christopher’s novel, The Age Atomic, utilises many of these elements well, even though its quality of writing isn’t the best.


The Age Atomic is a sequel to Christopher’s Empire State, which I have actually not read but wouldn’t mind doing so. My reason for reading Age Atomic first is because since it takes place in the 1950s, while Empire State is set in the ‘40s, it’s more reminiscent of the atomic sci fi drive-in movie culture that I love. But because Age Atomic was so good as far as story goes and because it is a result of the previous novel, I would be willing to read Empire State and learn more the background story for Age Atomic.

Although Age Atomic starts with a brief scene in the late ‘40s, it speeds up to 1954 and introduces Rad Bradley, a detective who is on an assignment investigating a mysterious scientist called “The King of 125th Avenue”. At this point, we are in a New York City of a parallel universe in which that city’s name is the Empire State. There has been an over-freese of the city which was caused by the closing of the portal (called the “Fissure”) between that universe and our own. The over-freese adds to the novel’s apocalyptic theme along with an oncoming armageddon. The freese also suggests today’s concern with climate change and global warming. The armageddon is a war between the King’s army of robots he creates from real people and those of a leader in the New York of our own universe: Evelyn McHale of the radical organization, Atoms for Peace (don’t let the last word in this name fool you!) The twist here isn’t only that McHale is a feminist character that breaks 1950s status quo, but also that she is the ghost of a young woman who committed suicide by jumping off the Empire State Building. Rad discovers that a fellow detective, Jennifer Jones, is looking for her missing brother suspected of having been abducted by the King. The two eventually meet up with Captain Carson who had also been missing and last seen piloting his airship, who in turn meets up with his double of our own dimension’s New York, Captain Nimrod. These four with many other characters team up to put a stop to the oncoming robotic war that threatens to destroy all human existence in both dimensions.

Elements of film noir,1950s science fiction, today’s science fiction involving parallel universes and alternative histories, and even certain modern computer tech terms make Age Atomic the atompunk story that it is. Even the New York of our own universe, referred to as the “Origin” in this novel and also as a template for the Empire State (the “Pocket”), is an alternative history within itself by the very nature of the plot: the doorway between the Origin dimension and the Pocket dimension which, needless to say, recreates history.

The other alternative history is the New York of the Pocket (the Empire State) described as “an imperfect duplicate of New York”, hence the term “template” applied to the New York of our own universe and suggesting today’s software technology. Other suggestions of today’s computer technology are ones referring to internet and social media. An example of this is a scene where two of the King’s robots, referred to as “Ratings . . .  chattered excitedly, their shared words piling over each other. . . .” Terms such as “ratings,” “chattered” and “shared” suggest internet and social media concepts such as rating tools on websites, chat boxes and sharing of posts. And so like what steampunk does with Victorian society and technology, Age Atomic is an intelligent example of what atompunk does with the cold war era’s society and technology to criticise our own internet/social media era.

Besides the superimposing of the two periods’ technologies, there’s also the superimposing of their social issues. A disaster scene where an airship crashes into a sky rise suggests our own 21st century’s 9-11. Similarly, the 1950s communist scare, especially through the threat of Atoms for Peace, compares with the concerns of today’s homeland security act which grew from 9-11 and the War on Terrorism.  Returning to the novel’s analogies of internet technology, the politics over control of the Fissure--a connection between universes like internet is a connection between computers--compares with today’s battle between net neutrality and corporate net control.

While the characters in Age Atomic tend to be somewhat typical, this is probably intentional to fit the novel’s pulp fiction nostalgia. The novel reads like a detective noir as well as a sci fi horror tale and even an epic sci fi adventure movie serial of the 1940s. Rad is the main detective who investigates a robot war scheme and searches for a missing person in connection with it. He is depicted as film noir’s and pulp fiction’s detectives are: a private eye type with his own office and agency. Along with this, the story contains themes of film noir’s interplay of darks and lights but also of gothic horror which is a genre that merged with science fiction elements in the 1930s’ and ‘40s’ horror films. These elements can be found in the book’s mad scientist labouratory scenes.  Rad’s young friend, Kane Fortuna, is a comic book super-hero type character--he wear’s a rocket propelled uniform consisting of a helmet mask and cape. Jennifer is depicted as a film noir/pulp female character in that she is in the victimised position at times, a damsel in distress, but she is also a stronger feminist type: she carries a gun like Rad, but a high tech one that wards off the robots. Also, as indicated earlier, she is a pro investigator like Rad.  

Christopher’s writing style is done well in that it goes with the theme of pulp nostalgia and so is more straight forward than interpretive. However, aside from a clever plot, the writing quality needs improvement. There is wordiness in some parts. There are some grammatical and mechanical errors which may be simply due to misprints and/or typos. Although these aren’t constant, they are a lot considering most other novels written by well known authors such as Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin and William Gibson.

What’s most noticeable is the epilogues. That’s right, there appear to be two of them at the end of the book which is very rare for a novel of any sort, and it is not indicated that the second one is an alternative ending and so this can confuse a reader a bit. Either this was a heading misprint due to poor editing (as in final proof reading) or it was intentional since the ending switches between the two dimensions and so an epilogue was needed for each dimension’s ending scene. But couldn’t Christopher simply put both these scenes in one epilogue and just divide it into two parts?

A couple chapters before the first epilogue, the resolution to the mystery, even though it makes sense and concludes the story well, is done in too speechy a manner and seems a bit rushed. This is done through one character, Nimrod, who explains answers to the questions that the story poses earlier. However, both the final chapters and two epilogues bring a satisfactory ending even if it is a somewhat dark and ironic one that leaves the novel open for another sequel.

While the writing quality of Adam Christopher’s Age Atomic can be better, the conventions of atompunk that consist of elements of our own time and that of the atomic era’s are used cleverly to tell a great story. In doing this, Christopher reflects our own era’s problems while showing a desire for a more innocent, more simple age and how it dealt with its own social and political fears. He brings back elements of a past speculative culture while yet relating them to our own time which is what alternative history subgenres such as steampunk, dieselpunk and, of course, atompunk do. These criticise science and technology’s impact on society, science and technology that hasn’t occurred yet such as mass robot wars and discovering doorways to other universes. This criticising should be the minimum that all good science fiction does, regardless of subgenre.


Note: The copy of The Age Atomic reviewed here was purchased by your faithful blogger. The book’s author or publisher has not paid me a penny or any gifts for this review nor do I expect them to.


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

April Fool's Discount on "Fool's Illusion"--No Fool'in!




What's the worst April Fool's trick you've had played on you? It probably wasn't as bad as any of the ones the many characters in my short fiction collection, The Fool's Illusion, pull on their victims. But this one is no trick: from now through Tuesday April 1st (11:59 P.M. Pacific Time) you can have the print edition of The Fool's Illusion for $3 off the list price! This book has a little something for everybody: vampires; the living dead; magicians; deadly creatures from the deep; cyber, outer and liquid space adventures and nightmares; strange but fascinating characters. So don't fool yourself into thinking you have plenty of time to purchase this one at this great discount because you don't. April Fool's is only two days away, so get it now!

Go to https://www.createspace.com/4376356 and use the discount code DHYE2PQA to purchase your copy!

Until next time . . .

Friday, March 28, 2014

Writing Through the Block to Make a Living

I attended Wizard World Comic Con when it was here in Sacramento three weeks ago, the largest pop culture convention in the area so far. It was basically a mini version of San Diego Comic-Con: the lines were nearly literal blockbusters, both the ones for admission into the con as well as the ones to see big name celebrity guests such as Star Trek’s William Shatner and Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee. As has been done with celebrity appearances at San Diego Comic-Con, Wizard Con staff had to cut off admission once the rooms reached their capacities. Unfortunately, yours truly was in the cut-off part of the lines for Shatner and Lee, who must have been the biggest celebrities there. But while I dig seeing famous pop culture stars like them speak, while I dig seeing fellow participants in colourful costumes of their favourite pop fiction characters such as Spider Man, Wonder Woman, Batman and Thor, one of the things I attend cons for most is to talk to other artists and writers either like myself or who are more experienced.

Even though Wizard World is primarily a comic book convention, their were plenty of authors there whose work went beyond just comic books (even though comic books are lately becoming acknowledged as literature). I chatted with fellow Sacramento fantasy/horror author M. Todd Gallowglas at his table in the exhibit hall where he displayed his Halloween Jack and Tears ofRage novels. He and I exchanged some great ideas about marketing non-comic books at comic book conventions. So I learn from my peer authors as well as my senior ones. And there was one senior author there I learned some very valuable advice from: Michael Golden, who has written for Marvel and DC. Mr. Golden held a panel on making a living from fiction writing that I was sure to attend. One of the biggest gems he offered was how to deal with writing during those times you’re not inspired to write. And how do you do that? Simple: write through the writer’s block.

One of Golden’s most valuable advice he gave at his panel was that when you’re writing fiction for a living do not rely on inspiration. Inspiration is very momentary and so it happens when it happens which can be within a matter of days or even months if not longer. You can’t wait for the muse to drop you ideas when you need a regularly paying salary. Therefore, as Golden said, a writer cannot afford not to be in the mood to write. A writer must work every time they sit down to their writing session and so to do this, more often than not, they have to be their own inspiration. That means composing a story when you don’t feel like writing anything or when you feel you have nothing to write about. Along with this, he said to stick with original ideas, meaning that when you start a story you must continue writing it until you get to the end even if it means having to write what seems to be nonsense. He says that you shouldn’t start a story, stop in the midst of it and then go back and change it or toss the whole thing entirely to start a different story. To do these things will only delay the income you would make from your work and that means delaying your bills, your rent/house mortgage and maybe even your meals. Author William Saroyan said that writing for income should be looked at like it were a “day” job: you write even when you don’t feel like it in the same way you work when you don’t feel like it. A lot of us artists know what it is to work a non-creative job and to do our tasks from the beginning of the shift to the end when we care very little about the type of work the job consists of. Needless to say, we definitely like writing far more than our non-creative jobs (or most of us do, at least) but, even so, there are days that we just don’t feel up to writing anything. Those are the days we have to remember the income that we are writing for.

So you write through the writer’s block but then come out with a poor story. What happens then? You go through your one or two revisions to make the story presentable and communicable, but you don’t keep going back to perfect it like you would with a work of art that’s made to display in an art gallery, as Golden put it. Creating a story for aesthetic reasons is something you do secondary to your projects that would bring in a living income. You put your aesthetic work in its own time slot when money isn’t as crucial of a matter. With the writing you want to make a living income from you must write and publish on the moment. If you happen to catch that aesthetic effect in your work then fine. But if you don’t you can’t afford to go back to reshape the work in order to find that aesthetic effect. You must tell the story, and if the story comes out poorly even after making it communicable to the audience, then, as Golden advised, you send that one off for publication and just make a better attempt on the next story.

For me, thinking of fiction writing as a journey is a great way to avoid, or at least work through, writer’s block. In the rough draft stage, I put myself in the mind of a character that often starts off very flat. The character will develop as the story develops and also when I make a character profile after I’ve completed my first draft. And so, regardless of how flat my character starts out, I take that character on a journey and so move him/her through imaginary space and events. The setting and events keep developing and lead to other settings and events based on the character’s decisions and reactions. For example, I’ll put character Carlos in a train station where he walks to one platform only to discover he’s at the wrong one. So he runs across another track to catch the correct train but at a bad time: another train departs just as he’s crossing. This puts him in the hospital. Putting Carlos in one setting and his actions performed in that setting leads him to another setting.

Thinking for my character in terms of spatial movement, in terms of a journey, enables me to write the first draft spontaneously. I don’t go back to revise anything until after I have completed the first draft. And so even if I have to make my character do stupid or seemingly meaningless things, I continue that journey of words until I feel the character comes to an end of that journey by solving the problem he/she has been dealing with. That’s how I overcome writer’s block which many other authors will say is not really writer’s block. They say this because, even if you are writing what seems to be nonsense, you’re still writing; you’re putting something on paper or screen to work with. And as long as you have that and make it communicable and believable and worth the reader’s time, then you’ve succeeded no matter how poor the aesthetics of the story may be.

As long as you’re willing to write through those times you are not in the mood, as long as you’re willing to write through writer’s block, and as long as you’re willing to make the story communicable and interesting to the reader, you can make a living as a writer. Of course that living income won’t occur over night but if you keep working in that mind-state and with that intention, you’ll eventually make that sustainable income. The very experience of writing the stories you sell is practice within itself. No matter how successful or unsuccessful it may be, you learn from any mistakes you make provided you take notice of them and you do better on the next story, and then you do the same for the story after that, and so on. It’s like working any other job. You’re not going to get all the tasks down pat in the first shift or two. But the more shifts you work, the better you’ll get at the tasks. The same holds true for stories.


Can you think of other ways to write spontaneously under a deadline whether that deadline is self-imposed or set by an editor? Please let us know in the box below. 

Until next time . . .