Tag Archives: Young Adult

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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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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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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Hunting High & Low For People I Don’t Know

Circles

Circles (Photo credit: Fillmore Photography)

Before we begin, I must preface this piece with these words: I tend to draw out the negatives of something before looking at the positives. I find this a bad thing. Nothing like confirming your own fears. Now, that aside, let us proceed.

Calling all writers & readers & in-betweeners:

I’ve been told by a few people that one of the best ways to progress with my novel is to find others in the process of writing their novels. Equal parts therapy group and motivation group, being a part of these groups can help develop one’s story while, at the same time, assist in maintaining one’s sanity. I’ve heard of these writers getting together once and month or so, to share their writings and receive helpful critiques from one another. It seems to be a, “takes a crazy one to know and work with one.”

So, in this arena, I have two possible issues with this notion. The first issue is I currently reside in a major metropolis of 2,200 people and the closest area is even larger with a populace of approximately 13,000. While the possibility of finding a group is small, there is possibility nonetheless. So this issue isn’t really more of an issue as it might be a scavenger hunt of fellow writers working in the YA and/or adventure genres. Again, not impossible, just, y’know.

The second issue—and this is a bit embarrassing to me—is that I know next to no one who is also working on a novel in this genre. And I do think it’s important to find someone(s) in the same ballpark so they can understand/appreciate what I’m trying to achieve. While I could work with someone writing a deep literary piece about two souls trapped alone together (yep, all chock full of metaphors), the other writer and I may not be on the same creative page and therefore might be able to give the best critiques. If your mindset is about a young socially awkward tomboy thrust into a struggle between the waning light and encroaching darkness. But there’s also clockwork soldiers and anthropology and snow globes and a touch of magic thrown in for good measure. I love it. Again, maybe this isn’t an issue either as it is more of a(n) (ir)rational of mine. I’m sure it’s the second option.

See? Not that I can find people and it may take a bit of searching, it’s I hope I can do it. Guh. Don’t tell my wife. It drives her nuts. Me too.

I just chatted with a one Susan Kaye Quinn (a great person and writer) and she directed me to her site where she has a bunch of people listed who could possibly start up or bring me into their writer’s circle to begin the process. Of course she also suggested I “FINISH THE NOVEL” and then go from there. Geez. Get all rational and stuff.

That may take some time, but it never hurts to start looking for people. Finishing my novel would help too.

Off I go.

Cheers.

Ps. See? That last part was pretty positive. Or maybe not. I think I have issues with my positivity. Damn.

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Interview: What I Did With My Summer (and Spring) Vacations – OR – Where Has The Time Gone?

Interview

Interview (Photo credit: smiling_da_vinci)

Me: Well, hello there. It’s been a long time. How are you?

You: [pleasant and appropriate response. Pleasant return question.]

Me: I’m fine. A little tired right now (without proper caffeine, 4-ish hours of sleep tends to make one a touch tired), but otherwise I’m hanging in there.

You: [agreeing response. Friendly inquiry as to my goings on these past four-five months.]

Me: What have I been up to? Well, let’s see: my wife brought into our world a brand-spanking new beautiful baby girl. She showed up a bit earlier than we had planned and so we spent some extra time to make sure she was ready to come home. And since she’s been home, I’ve found it near impossible to stop chewing on her toes and to keep from staring into her steel blue eyes all day. Her laugh is deep and her smile is pure joy.

She’s magic.

You: [amazed response with heartfelt congratulations. Comment along the lines of, “sounds like you’ve been busy”.]

Me: Indeed. On top of that, we decided to move during this summer as well. Granted, the move was in-town (a whopping 0.4 miles between homes), but doing the majority of it with an infant did provide its fair share of challenges. Fortunately, we have some awesome friends that helped with the big pieces and together we got all moved in and (most) boxes unpacked.

You: [general inquiry as to the progression of writing or other projects.]

Me:  With the arrival of the little one, I did put Jac And The City of 1,000 Worlds on hold while we adjusted to a new life and a new routine and new sleeping schedules. I’ve spent the last month reacquainting myself with Jac and her accidental adventure. I was really excited to find out that I really like the story. While that may sound a bit odd for a writer to say that, I spent many years looking at stories I had completed and hating them or spending my time thinking about how I could have made them better.

You: [off-handed comment regarding degrading one’s own work.]

Me: A bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I spent a long time languishing in the classic and self-induced Struggling Artist where nothing is good enough and all attempts end up in gnashing of teeth, tearing up my work, and casting them into the flames of my own creative misery.

Not exactly the most productive way to spend one’s time.

You: [absolute agreement.]

Me: So, now I look back at my previous (and current) works with joy and pride. Even in my younger years, the stories I wrote, are great ones. While the tools and language of my trade were not yet fully developed, it’s great to see and recognize that I have come a long way from my hormone and angst-filled days of high school. Thankfully.

You: [genuine gladness with the new ideology.]

Me: Me too.

You: [general inquiry into anything else I want to discuss.]

Me: I want to say thank you to everyone who has and continues to support me. My friends, my awesome beta-reader (relax! the book ain’t writing itself you know!), and my extended and immediate family. I have three wonderful children and I count my blessings every time I think of them. But, most important of all, is my wife. By far the most impatiently patient woman I have ever known, he

r love and support and encouragement drive me to become a better writer, father, and husband. While I may spend a lot of my time with my head in the clouds, she’s there to make sure I don’t drift off into space.

Thank you, honey. I love you so much.

You: [happiness with my sentiments.]

Me: I think we’ll need to wrap things up here on my end. I have a sleeping baby and that’s precious time to write and to do the laundry.

Take care.

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Coulda Shoulda Woulda: Rethinking the Rewrite During the Write

Mobile phone

Mobile phone (Photo credit: Matthew Burpee)

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I was right in the middle of working on my book when a notion popped into my head:

Wait a minute. Maybe if I move critical point #1 to physical location #3, then I could do away with physical location #2 which, while it could be great, may not be neccessary, so I could just pull the last 80 pages of the book and resctructure the book entirely. Granted that would kill months of work and possibly the outcome of the orignial intent of the book but would that help?

Back in the day, I would drive myself nuts trying to perfect each senctence I just wrote and then trying to perfect the sentence I was about to write. I convinced myself perfecting the prose would bypass the need for a rough-draft rewrite. Even though I embraced my love of perfectionism, I would talk to wife and complain that I had spent hours to only end up completing one paragraph on my book. After a while of me whining and complaining to my wife again, she would cut me off with, “just finish the damn book already! Quit worrying about every little detail and just write! Don’t even stop for typos. As a matter of fact, turn off the grammar and spell checker and just write. Get it all out and worry about all the commas and crap later.”

One of the main things that I love/hate about my wife is that she’s (always) right. It kind of drives me nuts some/all of the time, but in this particular situation I listened to her and have done my best to embrace completing what she, like Anne Lamott calls, the Shitty First Draft.

I’ve second quessed myself for most of my writing career with few exceptions, namely the projects that I’ve actually finished. Crazy that: I’ll finish a short story or a blog post. Then I’ll go back and read through it to make sure it’s, well…good. But one of the best parts of writing something is getting to the end and then spending a moment looking back at it and thinking, “holy crap. I just wrote [insert project]. Awesome.”

Earlier, I caught myself thinking about my Coulda Woulda Shoulda and stopped. I thought back to what my wife said. Here I actually considered tossing a huge chunk of my book and then spending a good chunk of my time rewriting another part of it. And the crazy thing is that it might have worked but on the other hand it might NOT have worked. I sure wouldn’t know if either direction would be best because I would still be clinging onto my perfectionism and not doing the one thing that I should have tatooed on my forehead:

Finish it.

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miTunes: the voices in my head can harmonize

Treble clef with transposition

Treble clef with transposition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love music.

While it may sound a little cheesey to say music feeds the soul, I find music can help recharge my internal battery or calm my emotional storm. And not only do I love music on a deeply personal level, I find discovering a film score or collection of songs can take me and my writing to a whole other level.

All the way back to high school, I recall putting together “soundtracks”. While others simply refered to them as mixed tapes, I always seemed to wrap a theme around the songs. At first the tapes started out as “fast songs” and “slow songs” and, as an old friend simply called his tape, “good stuff” (for fear of getting in trouble with his parents, he refrained from originally wanting to name his mix “great shit”).

A few years after high school, I began working on my comic series, Chance and I stumbled across a couple of songs that fit the theme of my series perfectly. Next thing I knew, I was digging through my collection of music, looking for the perfect songs to put together. My search soon spilled over into other’s music and, a few weeks later, I had completed my very first soundtrack.

Across the past 20 years I have assembled a soundtrack for every story I’ve written. From Nine Inch Nails and Sisters of Mercy to Enya and John Williams, each soundtrack has helped me find my voice and draw inspiration from. A good portion of my book, Jac And The City Of 1,000 Worlds, takes place in the fantastical and otherworldly city of Meridian. Looking through my collection, I found myself listening to a collection of Enigma, Loreena McKennitt, and Dead Can Dance, along with the score to Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. Now that the story has moved to a setting in late 1800’s London, my musical choices are shifting more towards the latter Harry Potter films (darker, heavier) the steampunk group Abney Park and the ghost-trance Burial.

Music means a lot to me on many different levels. Not only can can music convey love and despair, but it can also invoke  the world in my mind and the cast of characters residing inside.

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Milestone: Half-Full Cup

ancient Greek numeral for 50

Image via Wikipedia

At least for me, there are many milestones while writing a book. For example: each completed page is a milestone. One page written is one less you need to write before completion. You could even say each day you sit in front of the computer is a new milestone.

I keep track of the hours I work each day and the number of pages I write. This way I can see (quantitatively) how much I’ve written. I feel it’s a great boost to see my daily numbers. Even if I’ve only spent 30 minutes and written half a page, it’s 30 minutes I’ve been able to enjoy writing and I have about 200 words to show for it. This is my reward, my milestone.

But this is a big milestone for me. One that definitely deserves attention:

I’m officially half-way done with my novel, Jac and the City of 1,000 Worlds.

Yep.

I think that’s pretty cool.

I was planning on writing on a new topic this week, but I felt this was something to stand up and cheer about.

Wahoo!

Cheers

-SJn

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Origins

 “Who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear.”  -Lucas from Empire Records

Over the last year or so, I’ve had some people ask me where I got the idea for my current book, Jac and the City of 1,000 Worlds? What was the inspiration behind a 7th grade girl going on an unintentional journey to Meridian, a city at the center of 1,000 different worlds?

I don’t know.

For a good number of my stories, I’ve been able to find–at times odd–reasoning behind the spark of my ideas.

Many ideas have been due to a direct influence from already published works by my favorite authors. Neil Gaiman‘s novel Neverwhere and The Sandman series were huge influences in many of the stories I wrote 10 or more years ago, as was Warren Ellis and his graphic novel series, Transmetropolitan. And 15 years ago I was introduced to Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. While I knew Disney’s film adaptation of the book, I had never known the brilliance of Bradbury’s writing.

At times it’s been a result of statements that I or others have made. The creative seed for a comic series I wrote almost 20 years ago was something along the lines of me saying, “Wouldn’t it suck to have your hand bitten off by a demon?” And from there, my first completed project, CHANCE, was born.

I suppose I do know where my thoughts come from, at least in a creative sense (my wife would beg to differ that just about all of my thoughts come out of a certain part of my body that rhymes with bass, gas, and mass). Perhaps the ideas were bits from a dream that slipped into the waking world. Perhaps they come from the world around me and I piece ideas and images together which then slide into my mind.  Whatever the origin of a story is from, I’m blessed to be able to cultivate them into a work of fiction.

But, getting back to the original question posed at the beginning of this post, I must say in this particular instance, the original idea that gave birth to Jac and her incredible adventure was this:

I have no idea.

But I love it.

Stay tuned.

Cheers.

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