C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: writing

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

A few weeks back, my editor posted a link to a blog looking for writers. It was a paying gig, which involved writing about reading. What discouraged me was that they specifically stated that they WERE NOT looking for book reviews. I guess that's what I do. I don't know. I think I give you enough to make a decision whether or not you should try out a book. I don't like getting in depth on the plot or development--sticking more to what struck me as unique. At first glance I guess this could be misinterpreted as a review.

Needless to say, I didn't apply for the job. Maybe I'm selling myself short. Who knows.

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is what happens when you give Alexandre Dumas tickets to a Steampunk convention, then lock him in a room and tell him he won't be let out until he writes a book about it. This is a steampunk, swashbuckling tale in the sky, with healthy doses of palace intrigue, magic, magical technology, and more twists in the plot than...something, something...M. Night Shyamalan.

Biography.com

Biography.com

Steampunk as a genre seems hard to get out into the mainstream. Masques and Mirrors certainly isn't pure steampunk, but there's enough of it in there to get one's cogs off...whatever that means. In fiction, I think it's best used when describing a certain aspect of the technology. When it's used too much--encompassing the plot, the dress of the characters, the way they talk, it breaks the story and turns into, well, a steampunk conversion. I guess the same could be said about any quirk of world-building, but right now, steampunk seems to be the lightning rod for such criticism. If there's a pun in there, it was only partially intended.

Change'n. The Times. They are.

I re-read The Waste Lands by Stephen King--which is said to be the best book in The Dark Tower series. I tend to agree. The last time I read it was in college, which was a long time ago. *I pause to contemplate the passage of time*

It was a very different read the second time, and many years around, and my memories of events and characters were very different. The scene in the Tick-Tock Man's lair was rather simplistic in my young college mind. The setting was more trash-strewn hovel than trash-strewn missile silo. Did my memories filter out the details or where they never there to begin with? The lead up to that confrontation was also very different. I don't remember all the trap-filled, underground passageways. The character of Roland, the iconic gunslinger, was also more human, less full of angst, and, at times, even funny. We project a lot on our protagonists and perhaps my Freshman mindset painted a very different picture compared to my current, more refined pallet.

Or perhaps I'm just full of shit and wasn't paying a damn bit of attention the first time around.

If my wife, in-laws, and the doctor are to be believed, I have a kid now. Life as I now know it has changed...forever...and ever...*sigh*...and ever....

He's a goofy kid. I was going to add, ...'just like his old-man', but it would have sounded cliche. It's weird. Whenever I talk about him, I feel like I'm sounding cliche. I guess all those 'change my life forever' sayings really hold true in this case. It's a weird, strange ride, but I don't think I'd change even the late nights and crying. Not when he cries, and not even when I cry either.

The writing has taken a backseat to baby. I'm just beginning to get back into it. It's been a 2 month dry spell. But this blog, and some notes I've made are pushing me ever forward. I've started my final read of Hidden Mountain before it goes out for submission. It starts off slow. Not sure if it's too slow to the action. Once the action happens, it becomes a very 'hit-the-ground-running' until the end, kind of story. Not sure if The Editor should take another pass at it, or just throw it to the mercy of the submission process and see if I get any feedback.

At the library I work at, I've begun compiling what I like to call, The C.G. McGinn Collection. This is all a precursor to the C.G. McGinn wing, which they will build in my honor after all the money I donate to them once I become rich and famous. Here is what currently resides within this most prestigious--be it a bit pretentious--sub-library within the library proper:

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch

14 and The Fold by Peter Clines (14 is a must read)

Somewhere in Between by Katie Li

More to be added in time.

 

 

Short Stories & Burgers

Big news in the world of writing. You'll notice a new Projects section on the site.  Currently it links to 2 different pages: The Lighthouse Series, and Short Stories. The Lighthouse Series is the title of the novels I'm currently writing, which take place between two very different worlds. I've been asked by a few people what the story is about so I'll be posting a book synopsis of the first book, Dark Nexus soon.

At one point, I didn't think this story was going to become a reality. History has proven that I've not been one for finishing what I've started. But I've moved passed the doubt of  whether or not I have something here, and the doldrums of only writing when I feel inspired -whatever the hell that means. The novel will be finished and will see the light of day one way or another.

Keep checking the Short Stories section. Check is religiously. Better yet, check it every single day. I'm in the process of finishing a short story that takes place in the world of the Lighthouse Series. I'm also updating the 3 stories currently available on this site: Five Years, Coffee Shop, and Outer Heaven. Not to pull a George Lucas or anything, but I'm updating them based on current technology that wasn't available in that primitive time we look back on as 2012 . No. When those were written it was long before the world of the story was fully realized. It was before the characters were fully developed. So the 2.0 versions of these stories will fall in line with the novel. Five Years and Coffee Shop are considered backstory, but a story none the less worth telling. They follow a young Aryel Lessard as she learns how to enter the Dream. Outer Heaven will be expanded and will probably fall in the timeline a few years prior to the start of Dark Nexus.

My plan is to have the 4 short stores finished very soon. How soon? Long before July 29th. That's rather specific. I know, right! I will be at the New England Authors Expo, sitting at a table with Chris Samson. If I get the stories up on my website, for sale, in a single anthology, I will be hawking my wears at the expo and talking up Dark Nexus. If I don't get the stories up, I'll be hanging out with Samson and help promote his current projects -which are awesome, by the way! 

Since I'm a raving egomaniac, this is all very good motivation for me to get these stories completed.

So keep checking this site for an update and keep July 29th open on your calendar. It's in the middle of the week so put in the time off from work now. That's what I did. 

In other news, Bubba Burger had replaced the mundane grilling burger of old, since my awkward years in high school. They truely make a tasty burger.

The other day my wife discovered that Double B's (that's what all the cool kids are calling it...I think), make a Cheddar and Bacon burger. I can't even begin to describe the joy  and wonder that is this burger. However, I would recommend only eating just one at any given sitting, in part because people will look at you as the fat kid, and also, it's CHEDDAR CHEESE and BACON!!!!!! Treat these babies the way you would a really expensive cut of steak, or a fine sipping whiskey. Treat them with respect. Because if you don't respect these burgers, they will probably stick around long enough to cause you the most egregious and merciless pain.

Thanks for reading,

CGMcG

"Shift" & "Dust" by Hugh Howey

Book Book

It's a double-whammy tonight! I picked up Shift by Hugh Howey, for the beginning of the year. I like the book because I'm a sucker for the nitty-gritty back-story of a story. I think that's why It's taking me so long to write a damn book, because I'm all about the back-story. Shift was a prequel to Wool and explained how things got the way they got. 

Dust was the thrilling conclusion of the Silo Trilogy. It tied up a lot of the ends from both Wool and Shift. As a complete set, the trilogy was good, with Wool as the dominant book. Wool was very character-driven. You couldn't help but develop an attachment to the majority of characters, including the jerky head of IT. Shift and Dust were more about telling a story based on events. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't as emotionally stirring as the first book.

I like Howey's writing style and look forward to reading more of his stuff.

Errr...Write Write

A lot has happened in the writing world.

1. It took some hair-pulling, head-banging, and tears, lots of tears, but I was finally able to create an outline of the novel. I also figured out how I write: I create a first draft by just writing the shit out of things. I do best when this is done in a notebook. Sometime, usually between these pen-and-paper sessions, I'll put what I wrote into the computer, and during this time I'll expand on the ideas scribbled in ink and develop the story. We'll call this, Draft 1.5. Once the story is written, from roughly start to finish, I'll do myself a huge favor and outline the damn thing. The outline, in this instance, is my road map, something to keep me on track. By this point it's a game of fill-in-the-blanks. The outline helps me flesh out the plot and what I've missed, and where to include what information. After that, re-write, revise, proof and polish. It's probably not the way Stephen King does it, but shit, I'm not Stephen King.

2. Because the outline wasn't done I got into a rut. I'd been in a rut since Christmas. But that's all over. The outline is done and I'm writing strong again. I hammered out 2 major scenes over the weekend and snow days. 

3. Contacted Ben Dunn, and gave him a overly detailed character sketch for my main character, Aryel. For weeks now I had and idea of how she should look. And at the last minute I scrapped this idea for something 1000 times awesomer! Both The Wife, and Samson approve, so the commission promises to be kick-ass. Ben is unbelievably awesome, so I know the pic is going to come out looking great.

4. I want to start a simple D&D campaign that doesn't involve a lot of stats and number crunching, focusing almost entirely on the story, and taking place in the universe of the novel. I think that'd be really cool and would help me further build the world. Player's would create unique characters, not characters from the book, and they'd get lost in this crazy dream world. I don't know what kind of interest people would have for that, and I'm not the best DM, but hey, it could be fun. Any takers?

 

Meanwhile, in the town of -UNDISCLOSED-

Reading Books:

The squeal to "John Dies at the End" by David Wong, is a book full of spiders.

"This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It" is a less rough-around-the-edges tale centering around two beloved slackers living in a fictitious Midwestern town. Part of the popularity to the first book was due to it's following on the Internet, as a serialized blog of sorts. Reading the first book you could tell that -though coherent and complete- it felt somewhat disjointed. There were several stories rolled into one overarching main story that tied itself together in a somewhat chaotic way. The chaotic nature of the story and it's characters, that off-the-cuff writing style made the story work.

The squeal is much more polished. The story is tight. There are several subplots but they tie together in a way that complements the story as a whole. The tie-ins are clean.

I think the 1st book is better only because that chaos was what set the book apart, made it unique. It's not that it wasn't present in the squeal, but it was lacking.

Writing Books:

I had to look back to my last entry to see what the hell I had last talked about.

Ok, Part 1 IS done.

I need to sit down and edit it but finding the time to do that has been tough. It's the end of the fiscal year and the library I work at has a lot of extra money they want to give me. So my meager 6 hour a week shift has grown to 19 hours, just for this remaining month. So I'm working a lot.

I've reached the conclusion that in the same way writing with pen and paper is more effective than typing it out, editing in the same way is equally beneficial. But the tech-geek in me wants to desperately bridge this gap. I tried using a stylus with my iPad, Pages, and a copy of Part 1. Didn't work. Actually it sucked ass. And to be blunt, as one who owns several Apple devices and doesn't pass up a trip to the Apple Store whenever I'm in a mall, I can honestly say that the iPad is a nightmare for serious writing. It's a toy. It really is. Don't get me wrong, I like my shiny expensive toy, but I've given up on trying to use it to get any real work done. 

I've been eyeing the new Surface Pro 3, which isn't even out yet. No, I'm not being endorsed by Micro$oft. I'm merely seeing something I could actually use to get the pen and paper experience on an electronic device.

So I've been wasting a lot of time on tech I don't have instead of reading Part 1. 

Meanwhile, I'm stumbling through Part 2. I'm still trying to get a clear picture of how events play out. I mean, it's all been written in Draft 1, but I'm still discovering new things, new quirks about characters, new places to explore.

Having no time doesn't help either. I'm not in the groove, not in the world of the story.

Reading Part 1 will help.

Perhaps in July.

Roger Debris presents, History

Reading Books:

The vid has nothing at all to do with "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova, but it was what came to mind when thinking of how I would write this entry. The Historian was written in a unique way, which at first will sound like a somewhat gimmicky way to write a story, but was executed really well in this particular story. The story is written as a series of diary entries, letters between characters and research material. The story begins with a 1st person perspective main character in her 50's recounting her early teenage years. But even these parts of the narrative are read as if they were part of a memoir.

The book is about vampires.

Specifically it's about Dracula.

And to break it down even further it's about the half-monster, half-historical figure made famous in Bram Stoker's novel, which was also written as a series of journal entries and corespondents.

I remember putting hundreds of copies of this book onto and off of the shelf in the "Literature" section at a now defunct bookstore, so I didn't expect this story to follow the same trends common in genre fiction. And it didn't. The book focused heavily on the history of Dracula the man, and of his realm in the Carpathian Mountains during the 18th Century.

The main characters, all heavily embedded in the camp of Science, were forced to come to grips with the reality that indeed, the Dracula of history had much more in common with the vampire of story and superstition.

I enjoyed this book but I felt that the last 100 pages were when the book really got good and I wished the earlier parts could have been like the later. This might have more to do with my own preference to genre fiction, and those last 100 pages were very much like a vampire story than hard lit. 

Writing Books:

I'm thinking about starting a Character Blog. This would be separate from this blog, which, despite what you may think is about a real life person. If it develops into something, I'll publish it as it's own work. Regardless of where it goes, it will be a good exercise in character development. It would also be a good way of giving you, the reader, a taste for how I write and what I write about. I realize that this little endeavor is based on a lot of talk on my part, with very little concrete proof of my talents. Unless you're part of my writing circle, you really have no idea what the hell I'm doing besides, well, this. This will either help entice or repulse you from my work. Regardless, you'll know what you're getting yourself into.

The link will be posted on the site's homepage soon. I'll also update this entry with a link should you be reading this after-the-fact.

In other news, Part 1 of the story is almost complete. I've probably said this before but it's much closer than it was the last time I said it. I'm on Chapter 6, and it will probably be the last Chapter of  Part 1. Of course, I think I might have said that about Chapter 5, so who knows.  

Up Next...

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

and

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Flat Characters

Reading Books:

Pandemic, the third and perhaps final installment in Scott Sigler's Infection series must be what happens when an up-and-coming-author-turned NY Times Best Seller reaches for the stars and gets a tragic third-degree burn in the process. Scott, I admire your previous works, and the methods you used to sell your wares still has me held in perpetual awe. How you marketed yourself through the medium of podcasting is, in a word, remarkable. Not everyone can do what you did, despite its simplicity and the high availability of the technology.

But damnit Scott, would it have killed you to not rush the third story in a series that first hooked me into the Sigler universe?!?!?!

The book was broken up into parts. Part 1 was probably the best out of the entire novel. The reason being that it was probably written on the heels of Contagious, which in my opinion was the better of the three stories. Part 1 felt like it was attached to Infection and Contagious, which is a good thing when you're writing a series of books. There was actually character development in Part 1. I was actually starting to feel something for Margaret Montoya and Clarence Otto, -two characters who seemed to always get second-billing in the previous stories, when compared to Dew Phillips and "Scary" Perry Dawsey.

But once Book 2 began, all the care I could ever possible hold for these characters went right out the window and fell into a fire, destroyed like many of the story's settings, as well as the story in its entirety as well.

As a fan of the Matrix trilogy, I'd be the first to admit that character development was by and large two-dimensional. In fact one of those life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Captain Kirk found in your local comicbook den of all things in geekdom had more depth than the characters in The Matrix movies. But Scott, you made me care so little about every single character in Pandemic that by the end I was almost rooting for the virus to destroy everything. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the point of a survival story to get the reader to feel something for the would-be survivors so that when every hardship happens, they are jolted back to the edge of their seat in terror of their potential demise, and anticipation on how they're going to get out of this one. There was none of that. I can't even say the characters were simply unlikable. There wasn't enough development of them to feel strongly one way of the other. The only characters who came close to some form of development, (and only because of their presence in other stories) were Clarence Otto and Tim Feely. But too much time was spent making huge brush strokes on the disaster as a whole, paying far too little to character development. I'm sorry. I went into this expecting to like this book. I was sorely disappointed. Read it if you want to finish the trilogy, but don't expect much from it.

Up next: The Historian 

 

Writing Books

Not a whole lot new to report. I'm writing Chapter 5 in longhand. There's something almost intimate about writing this way, -with pen and paper. There's a connection that is often lacking when writing on a computer. I don't know if the ideas just flow better, if there's a subtle barrier between the words inside my head and typing them on a keyboard, or if I'm less easily distracted from surfing the web. But it's getting there.

I started reading the revisions out loud. There is a crystal clear voice to the narrative in Chapter 1. That voice can be heard in the Chapters that follow, but some polishing is required for it to be at the level of the first Chapter. Reading out loud also makes it clear where the flow is stifled by too many words, complicated descriptions, or awkward storytelling.

It's a long weekend so maybe I will get some solid hours of writing in next time.

Finding the Momentum

Writing Books:

The character of Aryel Lessard should have been one to come easy for me. Anyone how has gamed with me, from MMOs to pen&paper RPGs would know that a version of this character has been lurking in the echo chamber of my mind for close to a decade. But maybe since she had been around for so long that I stopped actually thinking about her. By 'thinking' I mean, putting some analytic thought behind who she is, and not staring dreamily into space, occasionally letting out carefree sighs while sucking down chocolate-covered strawberries.

I had to actually do some thinking when it came to creating the Basilisk because up until the start of this project, his formidable presence had not set foot into the hallways of my mind. What he wanted in this life I had thrown him in, and how far he would go to get those things were established, and written down. I had answered the questions that needed answering. By the time I started writing him into the story, I knew what made him tick.

With Ary, I'm still sort of finding that out. Which sucks when you've written an entire first draft and are just realizing one of your principal characters needs to go back to character development school. It feels kinda like a soldier being sent off to war when the commander realizes that he never learned how to shoot. I don't know. Maybe it's different. 

But Ary is a far better character now than she had been a week ago. And, until the beta-readers tell me otherwise, I think she's come a long way sicne the 1st draft of the story. It's not been easy, but it's been an experience I'm glad to have gone through because I've learned a great deal by going through this process. I used to write a 1st draft of a chapter, revise it, and then call it good. But it's not good. There are a lot of questions that need asking. I've written more revisions of just the beginning portion of Chapter 2 than I care to count. But it's important. I need to see what works and what doesn't. Yes, it's discouraging to not have all the answers when I sit down to write. Sometimes sessions feel as though I'm just spinning my wheels, but it's all important. It's all necessary. In the end I think it makes for better characters and hopefully a better story.

And it's important to keep even what you don't use. Because you never know when I scene might come in handy elsewhere. 

Reviewing Books:

Not going to write a review this week because I'm just under the 5-hour mark on finishing 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I want to see how it ends before I put my thoughts into words on the screen.

I used my 2 credits from Audible to get John Dies at the End by David Wong, and The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. Chris Samson recommended John Dies to me. Though I forget if he said to read the book first or see the movie. I remember him saying that the two complemented each other.

The main character of The Rook is a woman who is a high-level operative of a secret clandestine agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. My hope is that she is an example of a strong female character that I can hopeful gain insight from. We'll see. Dan O'Malley's only written one book according to Amazon and he may very well be as bad at writing woman as I am. But he's published and I'm not so he's probably doing something right.

 

Editing Made Easy with RD Client

I've started editing my 'short' story and I've come up with a very comfortable means of doing this. I've made a point not to chain myself to my desk for the editing . I really want to keep this stage in the writing process about cleaning up embarrassing spelling and grammatical errors, and less about rewrites. I really want a very clean first draft to start revisions from and since I've not finished the story yet, I cannot consider these initial revisions part of a new draft. Not being at a desk, with a keyboard keeps me from rewriting when I should be writing. 

How I've achieved this is using my iPad and a little app made by Micro$oft called RD Client, which is available on the iTunes and GooglePlay store. RD Client turns your tablet into a Windows Desktop. But it's not just any Windows Desktop. This is YOUR Windows Desktop. Interacting with the desktop from your tablet is very responsive because RD Client only works within your home network and does not need to travel outside the network in the way similar products like TeamViewer have to in order to authenticate.

The experience is access to my entire personal computer, which means I have access to the full version of M$ Word instead of a dumb'd-down 'tablet' version. I am able to edit my work while sprawled out on the couch. The onscreen keyboard allows me to make corrections, additions or subtractions, but is cumbersome enough to discourage me from rewriting entire sections of work. It can be done however, and I've already found that I have added entire paragraphs using just the onscreen keyboard. But it is still a bit too awkward to do any substantial, long-term work. If I connected a Bluetooth keyboard that may be a different story and I may end up doing that for a writing session in the very near future. But it's really working great for this editing/first-read-through process. 

Setting this up is also very simple:

1. Make sure your tablet is connected to your home network.

2. Make sure your Home PC is ON (duh!)

3. On your Home PC, go to the Start Menu and Right-Click Computer

4. Locate where it says Computer Name: , and write down the name of your computer. Chances are it says something generic and dumb like "Owner-PC". Maybe now would be a good time to make your computer less dumb and change the name to something awesome like SHUTtheFKUPDONNIE, or IWRITEBKS4LULZ.

4.5. If you get an error trying to connect by the Computer Name, you'll have to use an IP address. To do this, go to the Start Menu and in the box that says Search for programs and files type cmd and hit ENTER. In the black box type ipconfig and hit ENTER. Write down the string of numbers to the right of IPv4. This is your IP address and 2 examples of what it should look like are: 192.168.0.10 or 10.0.0.5 They are always 4 groups of numbers separated by periods (.)

5. On your tablet, open the RD Client app and select New Remote Desktop.

6. Under Connection Name, type a name for your computer. This is handy if, like me, you have a lot of different computers to keep track of. This name can be anything. You can call it something like Home Desktop, or Home Laptop, or even just a bunch of nonsense so long as you know what computer your accessing.

7. Under PC name, you are going to want to type the actual name of your computer described in Step 4. So go ahead and type in "Owner-PC" ;-p

7.5 Again, if you're getting an error connecting, go back to Step 4.5, get the IP address and then type it in, in replace of the Computer Name.

8. Under User Name type the Username and Password you use to log into your home PC. If you don't use a username and password to login to your PC,  then I see you like to live dangerously. I'm not sure if leaving this field blank will work. Windows has a fetish for security. You may need to secure your computer if you're getting errors connecting.

9. Ignore Gateway, hit Save, and then tap your newly created Computer entry to connect. If you get a Certificate Error, simply click Always Allow. If you can't connect, check your firewall or call tech support. Leave a comment below and I may be able to walk you through it. 

Enjoy

An Age Old Excuse

Everyone will say that their reason for not doing something, or for something that usually happens not happening, has something to do with the time of year. The Holiday Season is a great scapegoat for justified slackery.

And I for one embrace this useful excuse for why I haven't written or blogged as regularly as I'd have liked.

In all honesty, with Thanksgiving happening so late, Christmas 2013 has unexpectedly fallen upon me in the same way that the tsunami fell on Tea Leoni and her dad in the movie 'Deep Impact.' The only difference being, I'm not dead...but I still have a great deal of Christmas shopping to do, so I think we can all agree that Tea Leoni came out the winner in all this.

I've discovered that I'm the type of person who will avoid things that I do not understand until I absolutely can't avoid it any longer. Somehow I push through it, it all gets done despite it not happening in a timely manner. I think I'm there right now with the story. Right now the antagonist is this abstract idea. It's not tangible. The "villain" is very 2-dimensional. Right now he pretty much sucks at this job of being a villain. I keep going back to this idea that maybe his lack of substance is the point. Maybe he is supposed to be this obvious 2D antagonist in order to distract the protagonists and the reader from the true antagonist. Right now I have a puppet, and I'm toying with the idea of keeping him that way or killing it all together. 

Two new characters entered from stage-left. One is big and the other is tiny.

I have a Christmas party to go to tonight and I'd like to be able to say in a somewhat bragging tone, that I spent the day writing and that I've really begun to shape the story. Not sure if that'll happen yet but we shall see. 

 

Celebrate Turkey-Day the Ravishing Way!

No, you didn't mis-click and end up on my brother's blog. (That's 2 endorsements, bro).

Growing up, Thanksgiving was the holiday spent with uncles, aunts, and cousins. There was typically a lot of yelling and tears, that mostly happened prior to our arrival of their house. I didn't -not- like spending time with the extended family, but the years spent much later, when Thanksgiving was just with the immediate family were so much easier and fun, partly because we didn't have to drive anywhere.

So my fondest childhood memory of Thanksgiving had to have been the WWF Survivor Series from 1989. It was mine and my brother's first major Pro Wrestling event. It also happened the evening of Thanksgiving, so after the spectacle that was Thanksgiving dinner, we had a good 2 solid hours of wrestling entertainment. I'll let my bro tell you all about the wrestling event. As for me, I'll talk more about what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for:

1. My wife. Because it goes without saying that she's awesome. She makes me coffee when I ask, and she has a sense of humor that's both unique and a bit evil that syncs up nicely with my own. She also is my number 1 fan and support when it comes to writing. She doesn't let me get away without it and for that I'm most thankful for.

2. My job. It's nice to have one. It's also nice to have a job with benefits that didn't get canceled on me. So not only is it simply a job, but it's a damn good job that made sure the help stayed happy. Having been unemployed and knowing what a lack of job security feels like, it's really great to have some form a stability in these crazy-stupid times.

3. My family. This includes the mom and dad, the sister and brothers. But it also extends to The Wife's folks and fam as well. In spite of the reality television and family drama, which no family is exempt from, we all somehow manage to get along.

4. My friends. We don't see each other all the time, but I know that they're a text or phone call away. There are the friends I've had forever and the new friends I've met through work. You guys are great.

These sort of "I'm thankful for" posts always feel a bit stale for me. I'm mean, what am I supposed to say: I'm not thankful for my family, or, I'm thankful for my iPhone and headphones? That might be both creepy and funny but in the end, it's kinda sad. If that's what you're into, go watch some Real Housewives or read a supermarket tabloid.

It's good take a minute, at least once a year to put things into perspective though. Were it not for my family, I'd probably be homeless right now. And having no friends would probably speak volumes to who I am as a person. The term, "basement dweller" comes to mind. I'm thankful for not being a basement dweller despite my predisposition towards IT and computers. And speaking of computers, I'm so very, deeply, utterly, profoundly, and ultimately thankful that I do not work in retail anymore. It's nice having a job in a field that is based on a skill that the 'common man' does not possess. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I have the nuke codes or anything. But it's surprising what I know compared to what the 'average joe' knows. It's kinda like how I don't know squat about building a house, but my father-in-law could probably do it from start to finish in a weekend...maybe a long weekend.

And lastly, you have to be thankful for your wife...unless you're the one who is the wife in which case you're probably married to a dude...or a wife if that's your thing. I don't judge. Regardless, your significant other has got to be the most important person in your world. I'm thankful that she and I didn't meet over the Internet and that she was never brought up on charges of possession of a weapon of mass destruction. I'm also thankful that we're still together despite a bumpy first few years of marriage. If needed, she'd probably drop everything for me, were I in trouble. I'd probably do the same for her. I like to think so anyway. She also keeps me honest. In real life I'm a terrible liar. But I'm really good at lying to myself. She keeps me in check and I need that.

Anyway, I'm done being thankful for stuff. I haven't had a single piece of turkey yet but I have had a relaxing morning which is something I am also thankful for. I like a good morning to ease into. I'm armed with coffee and have spewed enough words on the screen to start writing make-believe things.

Happy Thanksgiving

Talk a Good Game

I haven't 'blogged' in a couple of weeks. And the reason is because I haven't written much of anything either. I don't like talking about writing if I'm not actually doing it. It makes this whole endeavor seem so superficial. 

When I've tried to write recently, I've stumbled through it and I haven't been happy with the finished product. I'm following an outline, which is new for me. I don't like the constraint, but I know that if I just write without direction instead of having a short story, I'll have pages and pages of good content that never actually goes anywhere, and never ends. I guess that's what my real problem is: I can never seem to finish what I start. 

There may be some hope, however. It's a long weekend and I managed to take Tuesday off as well. So maybe this is the week I fall off the wagon, and get back on the horse.  

Had a strange dream last night where me, and two co-workers were having tea with two elderly strangers in a dining room to a home that didn't belong to any of us. The home looked as though it belonged to a very well-to-do elderly couple different from the two we were having tea with. Somehow we all knew that none of us belonged here. There were doilies over polished wood surfaces. The windows were lined with translucent curtains. It was sunny outside, but, as in many of my dreams, the outside world was blurred and indiscernible despite the presence of light.

There was a bowl of raspberry's on the table and one of my two co-workers, we'll call him "O'Dave" had convinced himself that upon eating the berry's he could tell the difference between 'good' raspberry seeds and supposedly 'bad' seeds. The 'good' seeds he would consume, but the bad he would spit out into his hand. He would then take them over to the trash compactor, which was conveniently located in the dining room where we were all sitting, and throw them in there. Only the compactor turned out to be an incinerator, and as the bad seeds burned, he explained to us how it was the only way to take the bad seeds out of circulation, and that somehow his consumption of the good seeds would eventually end up producing more good berry's. We accepted this twisted form of dream-logic and continued to drink tea and talk with the old couple until I eventually work up.

Dreams can be so strange.  

I like to think there is meaning to our dreams. I'm not sure what most of this dream was about, but that part about the raspberries I get. The Wife and I have been on a smoothy kick lately and we've consumed our fair share of raspberries and blackberries. What I didn't realize was how many seeds end up in your mouth while drinking a smoothy. It brings an all new meaning to the word 'grit'. Where the drinks less sweet and delicious and more like drinking V8 veg juice, I don't think I'd continue to drink them.

Ok, so that doesn't really explain why there were good and bad seeds or any of that, but at least we can all breath easy knowing why the hell I'm dreaming about raspberries in the first place.  

 

The Cult of Sound

So I've been writing pretty heavily on this short story that I hope sell to my small audience. My hope is that they love it, tell all their friends, who in turn will buy my story, and so on and so forth. Then you all would read my blog and ask, nay, demand more stories. And it will be at that point that I will make the transition from free man to slave. 

Now, about that short story. What I've written so far is strictly discovery writing. I learned a lot about one of my main characters. Most of what has been written will probably be used in the main novel.

The short story that I've decided to write is going to be about The Cult of Sound, a seemingly passive religious group that is nothing but accepting of others in tune with the natural harmony of life. They're sort of tame for out-there religions. More singing naked around trees in the forest, than drinking animal blood and sacrificing virgins. 

The cult will of course have motives other than perfect pitch and being one with the sound of the universe, and that's where our protagonists come it. Right now I have a list of 7. I'm probably going to shrink that down to 3, maybe 4 key players. My intention is to introduce these characters now, so that when it comes time for the novel, readers will see these characters as familiar faces. And if these characters from the short story happened to reference characters that will turned up in the novel, it could have a nice effect for both character and reader. 

So yeah, 3-4 mains. 

A strong antagonist within the cult. Not sure how I'm going to handle that yet either. I've got a few ideas, but nothing solid, and hopefully not cliche. I think I'd like to explore the notion about the 'cult of personality'. It would be easy to use examples like Charles Manson, and David Koresh to explain both the cult aspects, and their individual charisma that drew people not only to follow them, but to like and trust them. Presidential candidates possess the same sort of charisma found in cult leaders and psychopaths. It's how they win elections every 4-8 years. There's something dark and magical within these men who possess the power to get you to believe what they believe. Even more strange, is when they instill on you their agenda and when confronted with a differing view, their supporters will turn from normal, questioning citizens, to rabid zealots, foot soldiers marching the campaign trail. Cult leaders and politicians do not being with evil intentions. Power corrupts. Attention from the masses breeds a lust for more. The extremes that one can take suddenly becomes limitless. And in both cases, politician/cult leader, they have their devotees. Their supporters who will shut down and discredit the opposition, spread their leader's truth, and commune in circles of like-minded robots. In the beginning, both the president and cult leader are loved by many. But this popularity will dwindle when the unpopular war is not ended, when campaign promises are broken, prison camp are not closed down, and families are butchered by unmanned drone strikes while the president plays golf. The cult leader find that his charismatic hold will only work on some many for so long before people begin asking questions that he cannot answer. Outside elements, like a joint AFT/FBI raid on the cult compound can end a moment and it's people in fire and bombs.   

And other cult leaders, like Jim Jones would have a highly devout inner circle at the read, to systematically kill every member of the cult under the guise of entering Heaven by drinking poison Kool-Aide. 

Even a terrible president has it better than a cult leader. Perhaps the number of followers has something to do with where such people fly or fall. A small hivemind can only spin their beliefs so many ways before the message gets stale. Presidential group-speak, forms a much more organized hivemind who can twist presidential credibility and actions through so many iterations that the machine can keep moving and sharking long after someone else has the seat behind the Resolute Desk. 

The cult of personality. I think this cult is going to have Bill Clinton as their leader. Everyone loves Bill Clinton. He was banging a woman half his age (good on him) and then lied about it to everyone. But Bill Clinton can do no wrong and thanks to how American politics is ruled, Bill Clinton will always be Bill Clinton. 

But lets pretend that Bill Clinton, Cult leader of the Saxophone Blowers Job-a-thon Order of the Secret Beret wasn't in American politics. But instead he was a religious leader who enjoyed a sweet beat and mellow sounds and maybe passed the bud around while he hummed a little tune. And everyone loved him for being so awesome. 

Now let's pretend that Rasta-Bill decided to use his divine power of attraction and his ability to drop dem phat beats for evil. What if his endgame was to enslave not just one race of people, but all people under the banners of his cult? 

And here we have a rough sketch of my short story's antagonist. He's the guy at the party who, by the end of the night will be everyone's best friend. Hes' well liked, intelligent, and quick with a joke. 

His taste for power cannot be sated. He wants everyone to share the same song in his life. He'll make this a reality within the Dream. 

Who could stop such a man? 

I've got that part covered. And thanks to this blog, I think I have a strong antagonist as well. 

I

 

Summer Vacation is Over

Well, for me it is anyway. Going back to work tomorrow. I can honestly say though that I feel somewhat accomplished. Granted, I did spend a considerable amount of time gaming. I beat the hell out of Arkham City. But i was also able to get some concrete ideas written down for the Dream story. I now have a much clearer picture of where things are going. The world these characters exist in feels more like a real place and a lot less like the clouded visage of a dream.  

This week was more about world building and research than it was about writing. I think it will all make for a much better story.  

In a way I am glad the vacation is ending. I'm ready to get back to work. There's a lot to do and i think i have just over a week before classes start. I'm also getting a new tattoo on Saturday and I'm pretty excited. Who would have thought I'd be a tattoo guy? I certainly didn't. In homage to the subject of the tattoo, I started following Neil Gaiman on Twitter.  

That seems to be the long and short on the end of this little break from the day to day. Until another idea pops into my head... 

Live from the 'local' B&N

I'm being tongue-and-cheek when I say it's my local bookstore because I have to travel over 20 minutes to get there and it's in a busy shopping center. Yeah, I know; "First World Problems." But there is more to it than simple distance. The term 'local' anything conjures up the mental image of a homey, 'mom and pop' quaint gathering place where one can feel 'at home'. (I'm using a lot of old sayings to try and make a point. Bare with me, it's both my vacation and birthday week). But you get the idea. It's 'a place where everyone knows your name.' You don't get that feeling at bookstores these days.

Bookstores fall into 3 categories: Borders, B&N, and Boring. The Borders variety is also known as the out-of-business bookstore. The B&N flavor is the last dying remnant of the big corporate book chain, desperately trying to hold onto an old business model in a world moving to everything digital. The third category, are the bookstores that try to hold onto the old model without the funds of the big name stores, but also try to create an atmosphere similar to a library: Lots of seating, maybe a cafe, and a 'mom and pop' feel. These places are boring because they lack the inventory of the bigger stores... -well, except Borders, which currently has no inventory, and typically do not last very long because most customers would rather actually buy from the bigger stores and typically, like a library, would rather site around in these smaller establishments than spend money. You can typically find these places in old department stores and they will often resemble a warehouse rather than a place you would go to pick out books and perhaps even read them. One thing they have is space, places to sit, which is lacking in the big chains.

Currently I'm crammed in a corner, one of the only available seats in the entire store, bitching about said stores. Back before digital media, stores like B&N and Borders thrived and were able to strike a nice balance between a comfortable customer experience, and selling books. As physical books sales dropped, so too did the customer experience. It was no wonder most people would rather buy their books online than enter a bookstore.

I don't know. I may be talking well out of my ass on this, and 'squatters' as we'd call them when I worked for a bookstore, might have been the downfall of the big bookstores, for the sole reason that squatters would not actually buy anything, but rather, would take up space, and often do all of their reading in your comfy bookstore chairs. Who needs to buy a book when you can just read it in the store.

The argument in and of itself is complex and there perhaps isn't a clean and simple answer. Perhaps the best way to serve the squatters and writers would be to build quality cafes in all public library's. Make them a private entity within the public space. That way, the lousy writers and cheap SOB's who aren't going to spend a dime on a book, at least, not in a physical bookstore can have their place to take up space and be some poor librarian's burden instead of the poor bookseller in the big bookstores.

The question can then be asked, what is the fate of the B&N's and Boring bookstores of the world? Perhaps they should all go the way of Borders. After all, everything is going digital anyway. 

A very tongue-and-cheek post. 

Winter is Coming

I was never one for the hype while the hype was at its peak. When Harry Potter was at the height of popularity, I was disinterested. In all fairness I did have to wait for the final books to come out. But I was definitely not the hipster, "I liked them before they were popular" of Harry Potter. 

I was also not the Song of Ice and Fire hipster either. And I'd like to think that I didn't buy into all the hype that spawned when HBO made the fantasy series into a show. I watched season 1 only after is came out on DVD, and currently I'm reading book 1, "A Game of Thrones" via audio book. In fact, I'm currently listening to it while I type this. It's hard to do these two things at once. Had I not seen the show first, this would have been very confusing. 

All the major spoilers of the past 3 seasons of the show, and I'm assuming this is the case for the first 3 books, have been revealed to me thanks to the Internet and my own curiosity. The 'shocking' moments feel forced to me. It's as if Martin took the most shocking and sensational path for the sake of being shocking. It leaves a strange taste in my mouth. It doesn't seem wrong, but it feels cheap. It reminds me of how Stephen King will shock his readers by killing off endearing characters in the most gruesome and sudden ways imaginable. These characters are often female, young, and play a key role in the story up until they are hideously disfigured and often dispatched. Two examples would be Cell and 11/22/63 come to mind.  

That's not to say that I'm not enjoying Martin's work. The intrigue and character development is some of the best I've read. And the characters feel real. They are flawed just like real people. There is no Hollywood glamorization to them. Martin is to Tolkien as Deadwood is to a spaghetti-western. I'm looking forward to seeing where the stories go beyond the show.

Nailed it!

I've never been one for outlines. But I think I just started one in it's absolute most basic form. Here it is:

I. Title: "Working Title about a Dream World that has a much Better Title than this Current One"

II. Prologue ("Five Years" and "Coffee Shop" will appear in this section in some form)

III. Book 1 - Betrayal (This will be the present)

IV. Book 2 - How it used to be (This take place in the past, it leads up to Betrayal)

V. Book 3 - Resolution (This is a continuation of Book 1 and will wrap things up, for better or worse).

So why not make Book 2, Book 1, and Book 1 Book 2? Not sure. Maybe the finished product will be in that order. Or some other order. Maybe there's a Book 4. Who knows. But I think it would be best to establish the main conflict right out of the gate and then fill in the rich history of all the characters later.

Big News of the Week

So here is the plan. I'd really like to kick things off with a bang. Some of you may know that I have roughly 3 stories in varying stages of done-ness. These three stories, code named "Dante", "Simon", and "Somewhere" have been projects that have been simmering for years now. One day I'll finish them, but for now, I feel, they've grown stale. The story in each of them interest me, but the process of writing them does not.

So I'm going to start writing something new. I very small portion of it is currently in the WIP section of this site, titled "Five". I will be expanding upon this in a series of chapters that will focus on the characters of the piece. I see there being many characters in this story, so if I can make a concise piece that introduces the character, while giving you, the reader a taste for the universe they live in and how they interact with each other and said universe, it will probably make telling the story that much easier.  You'll already know the people.

This character study will be part of a much bigger story about dreams. The story will essentially ask the question about where dreams come from. Are they simply an elaborate manifestation of our subconscious? Or do they originate from somewhere outside of ourselves? Can my dreams connect with your dreams in the same manner that my words connect to your words in the form of email or internet chat? Or, can I interact with you in a shared dream in the same fashion as I would on a shared server, in an MMORPG?

My hope is that this interests you as much as it interests me.

More to come very soon.

CGM

A Bit of a WIP

So I'm getting a hang of this whole webpage setty-uppy-thing despite a complete lack of whatever the hell I'm doing. But I did manage to create a Sidebar, (oooh, ahhh). But more importantly, I was able to create a section to display some of my work. So stop reading this and head on over to Here for something I'm trying to put together. A new series without even a working title...just a David Bowie song.