Category Archives: General

Hamlet and Yoda Got it Right

The word aspiring is a load of crap. 

Ok, sure. The word holds the feelings of hope, determination, and perseverance, which is awesome. It is a great word. But in the context of which I’m talking about, it’s a waste of time.

For years I lived under the title of “Aspiring Writer”. I dreamt of the day when I would be able to tell people, “why yes! I am a writer!” I would then smile proudly, full of mirth and merriment. Yes, for years I looked forward to that day when I would able to shed “Aspiring” from my professional title. And then, one day, I realized something which became quite profound in my writer-y path.

I’m a writer. I write. Whether I’m published or not, whether I make a bazillion dollars or not, whether I rise to the lofty levels of the greatest literary minds or not, I sit down and make stuff up in story form. So, I don’t buy into the whole aspiring adjective thing. I have three stories published to date, and a Young Adult Mini-Series in the works, hoping to be finished sometime in the future (details to follow sometime).

So, if you’re like me, and like to make stuff up (or non-make stuff up), don’t aspire. You are “to be” and “not to be”. And please “do”, as their is no try.

Cheers.

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He Who Laughs Last by Dave Sokolowski

He Who Laughs Last

HWLLI’ve known about Kickstarter for a while now: a website created to promote independent projects such as film, books, software, and games. With the rise of websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, the word “crowdfunding” was created. The premise of Crowdfunding is to get a group of people to pledge money to a project they would like to see completed. Each project has a certain amount of days to be funded and. if that time it does not get fully funded, then those people that pledged money get it all back and the project goes back to the drawing board. It’s a pretty cool premise and one that I fully support.

That being said, I would like to talk about one project in particular. Dave Sokolowski’s “He Who Laughs Last” is a role-playing game supplement set in H.P. Lovecraft’s world of horror and madness, also referred to as, “Call of Cthulhu”. The idea behind Call Of Cthulhu is that a group of people get together, each role-playing an “investigator” and act out their role through a constructed story line. Think of it as an improv troupe on an old radio drama. One other person in the group is the storyteller, a combination writer/director, who guides the group through the story. It’s alot of fun spending an evening solving riddles and uncovering terrible secrets, all the while trying to not go insane.

So much fun.

“He Who Laughs Last” is published under Dave’s Weird 8, the first of his self-published projects. His story has received high praise from within the role-playing world. He currently has two videos on the project’s Kickstarter page, both of which paint a great picture of Dave’s personal history in the genre along with an overview of He Who Laughs Last.

I highly recommend supporting this project and pledging any amount would be fantastic. I would love to see Dave’s first project be a successful one.

Cheers.

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Readwave and Scribd: places for writers & readers

Quick and informative post about reader/writer sites:

Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill - finding fiction

Readwave is a well-presented site for writers-looking-for-readers and readers looking for something bite-sized to read. Anyone can post a piece of flash (800 words – longer pieces have to be broken up) and your stats are clocked up next to each entry. While I’m not sure that a ‘read’ always means what it says, you do at least know someone looked and that your treasured bit of prose isn’t all on its lonesome any more. Upload is a simple copy/paste process with boxes for title and short description, and a place to put tags.

There is a limited range of images available as headers which are rather nice but for variety and relevance, you might want to source your own. Copyright-free of course, or keeping it in-house, something you chased up on Photoshop.

Scribd is an option for longer pieces which are uploaded as documents . If you want an…

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Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

It was never planned for me to write a post about music. When I first started this, I was going to keep it to books and writing and nothing else. Over the course of the past two years, I began bringing family matters into posts. I suppose it makes perfect sense: I am who I am as a direct result of my family and vice-versa. I also found other influences to bring in which, in total, makes me…me. And so, here I am talking about music. Again.

A previous post of mine talks specifically about music, as does this one, but I’ve never done an actual album review. But, after completing a full listen to Alanis Morissette’s album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, I felt compelled to talk about it.

Released in 1998, it was the long-awaited follow-up to her pop/angst album, Jagged Little Pill. In a lot of ways, “Junkie” had a lot to live up to. “Jagged” won Grammy’s Album of the Year in 1996. Alanis pulled in three more Grammys that night, so there was a whole lot riding on her next album. And, when Junkie started circulating, people really didn’t know what to make of it. I did, however, come to a decisive conclusion:

Awesome.

Now, I don’t mean awesome in the way that someone would also say, “badass” or “totally”. I mean awesome in the sense of its power and intensity. Jagged has its “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know”, both rife with anger and both subtle and obvious. Junkie, on the other hand, blasts you with emotion as soon as the opening song “Front Row” opens with Alanis’ harmonized emotional push. And that’s the theme of the album: emotion. About 30 seconds into “Front Row”, you have two choices: bail out or dig in. The album doesn’t–won’t–let up or let go of you. And I love it.

Wading through each song, there is an obvious (some would say over-) produced feel about it. Glen Ballard, hands down one of the industry’s best producers, has worked with Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, and Dave Matthews. Working with Alanis, the two created a rich and thick collection of 17 songs. The number of songs is also a little intimidating upon first glance. Plus, they’re not short songs either. Junkie has a running length of 72 minutes, which is massive for a single album. She could have easily thrown in one or more songs and turned it into a 2-disc album, but that, I feel, would have taken away from its presence. Looking at song titles like the incredibly haunting fourth song “Are You Still Mad” (by far my favorite track) and the simply young-yet-wisened “Unsent”, I could tell it was going to be intense and incredibly personal.

So here I am, listening to it for a second go-around tonight, and I think it’s the weight of the album that I love so much. And by weight, I don’t mean heavy. Perhaps…dense…is a better explanation. There’s very little acoustic guitar and just hints of her signature harmonica play. Even with her acquired-taste fully open-mouthed vocals, she spends a lot of time in the back of a small mouth. Her voice is often quiet and, at many times hanging in the lower register, which adds to the density of her songs. Being a singer myself, I love it when a performer’s voice truly becomes another instrument and adds to the fullness of each song.

I’m not sure if I’ve done the album any true justice. This is my first review and it’s subject to wandering. Perhaps it’s after listening to Junkie (twice) that I’m exhausted and ready to climb under some heavy blankets so I can continue to feel the same weight as I just experienced.

If you haven’t yet, give Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie a go. If you already have, give it another go. Just remember to hold your breath and give in. It’s safer if you do.

Cheers.

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Finding the balance

At times I feel like Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Especially during the part right before the mild-mannered scientist turns into the Hulk and punches the Massive Flying Metal Dinosaur Robot-thing in the face, he says, “I’m always angry”.

Sometimes I can relate.

Not that I’m going to turn into a monstrous green indestructible guy and rampage the city, but there are times I get frustrated and want to do nothing but yell and say potty words (for the PG audience). In order to work through it, I vent my frustration through music. I have a love of Nine Inch Nails and other “angry” music. On that “artist” side of me, I let myself get lost in the dark, primitive nature of my mind. It’s amazing what the imagination can conjure when in the right (or wrong) frame of mind. I try to channel most of it through me writing a very creepy adult novel and letting the frustration go. I suppose I could exercise and physically drain myself but…y’know, whatever.

But I embrace the balance.

Just as much as I love the angry stuff, I love happy pop bands and traditional world musicians. I will sing along or, just like when I’m frustrated, I fall into the music. There is a certain freedom which comes by opening yourself up and truly taking it all in. I really enjoy listening to “old world” musicians such as Loreena McKennitt and Dead Can Dance and, I have to admit it, Enya’s self-titled first album. While it’s modern and electronic, it has an old Celtic feel to it and it’s great when I’m writing.

So, in finding a balance to my senses of light and dark, I’ve come to enjoy listening to film scores, especially those from the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes films. Part three of my book takes place in an alternate Victorian London and they all fit perfectly. I can use them for the fun moments with Jac and the other spookier parts with the antagonist and his shadows and machines. Great stuff, but I might be biased.

So, there you go. Not sure if it’s the best way to deal with the black and white that makes up my mind and imagination, but it works for me. I’m sure there are those that say I shouldn’t feed the anger, and I really don’t. I just focus it towards something productive with my art. I have to say, I couldn’t imagine living that way all the time. You need to let it go before it swallows you whole.

Find your balance.

Cheers.

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Milestones Reached!

Milestone!

I’m so happy to report that I have completed Part Three of my four-part novel, “Jac and the City of 1,000 Worlds.” Even though it’s taken me the better part of forever, I’m ecstatic to reach this goal. While I would love to finish the book by this September (I have something forming on the horizon), I’m not going to freak out if I don’t. Like I said in my last post, as long as I continue on, even putting down no more than one single word, I will be achieving my goal.

For those who know me (and, for those that don’t, you will know me once I tell you what I’m about to tell you, so now we’re practically besties), it’s been a bit of a rough road these past 10 years. Of course, there have been some truly amazing and awe-inspiring events, such as my wife actually saying, “I do”, witnessing the birth of our beautiful children, and waking up each morning knowing, even with all that we’ve faced and overcome, how blessed I am.

So here I am, looking back on the past 12/120 months and then look to what the future has in store for me. I’m starting the first year of a new decade and I’ve decided it’s going to be a positive one. I have new goals to reach, new pathways to explore, and new ways to teach and be taught. I’m excited. Scared…but it’s an excited scared, if that makes sense. I look forward to the challenges and mysteries of what tomorrow has to offer. But, of course, I’m not going to forget the joys and miracles that today has to offer. I know I’m blessed. I know, as long as I have my family and friends to support and encourage me, I will reach the next goal and continue to have a wonderful life.

Cheers.

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Almost the answer

41.

While I’ve always been a fan of 42, the idea of 41 freaks me out. And why the isolated fear of a prime number?

It’ll be my age not before long. While I will only have to endure the title for 365 days, it signifies more than just a number. Not only does 41 signify the beginning of my 4th decade spinning around the sun, it shows me where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m headed.

I’ve spent many years dwelling on the past, a poor past time for certain. It does nothing for me but focus on what I coulda’/shoulda’/woulda’ done differently, and that isn’t productive at all. That is not to say I shouldn’t learn from my mistakes (which I have yet to master), but I fixate on my poor choices and do nothing but stagnate in my own quagmire.

What I need to do is see what today holds for me. I could complain about the state of things, but all that does is look to the negative and that just lands me back into the quagmire. So, I must make a choice and look to that which is good and whole around me. And I have much to be thankful for: an amazing family both immediate and extended, a wonderful network of friends and colleagues (yes, I’m talking about you), and the promise that today brings. Throughout the day, celebrate all your victories, no matter how small. Even if I write one word in my book, I call it a win. Spending precious moments watching my children discover the world is a win. Sitting on the sofa with my wife, cuddling and watching a movie together, is a win. Even ruining dinner is a celebration of what not to do next time (or what to never try to cook again). And then, at days end, I look back on that day and celebrate my victories: helping make (and devour) a great homemade meal, watching the underdogs win, finding patience while my toddler throws an epic-sized tantrum, seeing the warm morning smile of my other kiddo, and every other moment where I grew and became a better version of myself.

Live your life today. Once the day’s over, you’ll never get it back, so live it well.

So that’s what I do now. Even if it’s a tiny win, it’s still a win. I’ve written far more than one word today, along with a hundred other wins today. Today was a good day. It was a great day.

I look forward to tomorrow so I can live for today.

Cheers.

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And So It Goes…

It appears as quickly as things came, they have gone. About two months ago I was presented with the opportunity to man the helm of the Steampunk/Historical Fiction magazine for the eFiction line of magazines. I jumped at the chance and was quite excited about it. Unfortunately, I have stepped down from my position after completion of the first issue. I loved learning the basics  of what it takes to put an e-zine together as well as meeting some great new and veteran writers. I also made some great friendships and many more acquaintances within the writing industry. So, a hearty “Thank You” is given to any and all who made a part of my magazine happen. Please jump over to the Fiction Magazines website and take a look at

PROF. DOBBS’ LITERARY PRIMER FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY

While I don’t have confirmation, it appears as if the magazine is available here:

Barnes & Noble Online

Enjoy,

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My Wishes Three

Taking part of Emma Newman’s Three Wishes, I have put together a list of, well…three wishes in order of what I feel is from easiest to hardest. While the actual act of granting wishes shouldn’t be based on a difficulty scale, I’ve

Beware of troll

Beware of troll (Photo credit: mamamusings)

become a bit pragmatic in the last year. Plus, the higher up the difficulty of wish granting completion there is, the cooler that person (or persons) will be. So, without further rambling, I present my three wishes:

Wish #1: I would love to have illustrators willing to work with me on completing my novels. I would be willing to work either on a royalty basis or for a (small) nominal fee or even for free.

Wish #2: Twenty years ago I had the chance to talk with Neil Gaiman but, being immature at half my age and completely gob smacked, I missed that chance. Now I would be ecstatic at the opportunity to do it again. I have a lot to say and ask and will do my best to not pass out. No guarantees.

Wish #3: Earlier this year my wife was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease which is uncureable. While this would be quite the wish to fulfill, needless to say, the granter would indeed be on the highest level of cool.

Well that’s all. Three simple wishes. If anyone feels so inclined to grant or assist with said wishes, I would be incredibly grateful.

Don’t forget about the coolness.

“These three wishes are part of a wish-making community organised by author Emma Newman to celebrate the release of the second Split Worlds novel “Any Other Name”. Can you make any of them come true? Come and see what other people are wishing for and find out how to join in at http://www.splitworlds.com/split-worlds-extra/three-wishes – who knows, perhaps someone could make one of your wishes come true.”

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IndieReCon

Indierecon-logo4

Now, let me first start by saying I love where I live. It’s a small town of 2,200 and we’re the largest of 5 towns around a “major” city of about 14,000 people. Yes, it’s small. We’re about an hour’s drive from somewhere else and about 2 1/2 hours away from an actual city. The kind of city which has really good food–not just “good enough”–and toilets that flush themselves. Since civilization is so far away, it’s not often that one gets a chance to enjoy such things, let alone special events such as concerts, the choice to see a movie other than the 3 offered in town, and what I’ve affectionately dubbed “Word Nerd Herding”. Other people refer to this as Literary Events or Conventions or Seminars or other such gathering-type noun.

I used to live outside of Portland, Oregon, and there is a great annual literary “festival” (add that to the list) called Wordstock. I’m sure there are dozens of them across the country and hundreds abroad. Unfortunately, living where I do, it make’s it a bit challenging to make a six-hour drive one way to attend a seven or eight-hour festival and then drive back. And even if I stayed over-night, It’s still a lot of expensive driving back and forth.

So…what to do?

A short while back I met a fellow novelist, S.R. Johannes, and from her site I learned about IndieReCon. IndieReCon states they are “the premiere online writer’s conference for the independently minded”. After looking through the site and what was being offered, the conclusion I came to was…cool.

The conference (missed that noun too) is run by and focused towards the self-published “Indie” writers, which many authors nowadays have become. Now, one of things that has drawn me to this conference is the location and admission fees:

Online and free.

That’s a nice combination.

I’m signed up for next year’s gathering scheduled the weekend of 2.19.13-2.21.13. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the virtual conference goes. I hope to make some new acquaintances  and attend some panels with people scattered across the planet. That sounds pretty cool.

Check it out.

I’ll…see?…you there.

Cheers.

-SJn

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