The In-Between Time (or when one gets addicted to LiveFeed on Facebook…)

I’ve been trying to think of a good blog post to write. It’s been a slow month, writing-wise. The only serious project I’ve been working on is prepping Willow up for the 2nd draft. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been finalizing names, places, histories, backgrounds. I’ve also put up a new word counter, seen to the right. Everything should be set for me to start writing the new draft by March 2.

But other than that, I haven’t been doing much. I’ve been toying with a story, but I’ve pretty much been slacking in the one-story-every-week goal I set at the beginning of the year. At first, I figured I needed a bit of recuperating after the intense writing session I had in January. So I played a couple casual games. Got caught up on a bunch of short story ezines I’ve been meaning to read. Did some maintenance on Facebook. Did some more maintenance on Facebook.

Around the time I found myself sitting and watching the LiveFeed on Facebook, I realized I was no longer in the Recuperating Stage. I was in the Slacking Off stage.

It’s a weird time to be in when I’m between writing projects. Granted, I should be focusing all my hard work on Willow, but the stuff I’m doing doesn’t really feel like writing, although it’s just as important. It’s more like maintenance stuff, getting all the players in place and making sure my character has gray eyes instead of green and the name of his sister is "Daphne", not "Ashley". Therefore, it doesn’t really feel like I’m writing.

Likewise with the story I’m toying with. It’s more freewriting than anything, which is what I needed to do, just letting my mind and thoughts wander while my mind plays with story ideas. But it’s not like I’m getting to the meat and nitty gritty of a story, like what makes the story tick and what not. What I’m doing is pretty much mental doodling—not really serious.

So I’m at this weird in-between place in my writing, where I’m between serious projects. On the one hand, it’s an okay place, because it allows my mind to replenish its creative flow (I was about to write "juices", but then that got me to thinking about simmering meat, which got me thinking weirdly enough about cannibalism, because I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night and Johnny Depp had this great line—okay, creative "juices" seemed just to creepy to write).

But on the other hand, it opens me up to tons and tons of distraction. Like watching Facebook’s LiveFeed. Because I really, really want to know what my friends are doing at that very exact moment

What it is really, is that I have a productivity vacuum inside my head. When it’s pointed towards a writing project, yeah, I’m with it, I’m in the groove, things are rolling along nicely. But when it’s not directed towards a project, then it’s directed towards any old thing, which means I spend three days trying to escape out of a locked room… 

(Actually, you’ll be amazed at how addicting these escape-the-room games can get. Especially since the more you play, the more tricks you pick up, the easier the games get, which means you start scrambling towards harder puzzles…what? What do you mean I’m digressing agai–)

The point is…procrastination.

And the other point is…ummm….sometimes it’s good. Because when you recognize that you’ve had too much of it, it means that you’ve had enough rest and recuperation and you’re setting yourself up for your next project, which is good, because you can now look forward to your next project with eagerness, and it means that you can start looking at all the stories you have sitting in the sketching stage and think, "which of these stories can I flesh out more?" And you start thinking and start writing and before you know it, you got yourself another project to do. Which is good.

I think I’m ready for that now. And I think I need to wean myself off the LiveFeed. Too much Facebook can be a bad thing. Besides, the Facebook RSS Feed is far more useful.

Well. That was a nice rambling, makes-no-sense post. But considering that it’s something that I did after a week of nothing, hey, I’m feeling pretty productive. 2nd draft of Willow, here I come!

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Mini-review of "The Women" up at the Agony Booth.

Got another review up at the Agony Booth! It’s a mini-review of "The Women", and it’s picturerific! Go check it out!

Book Review: Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff

The Wiscon book club I attend nowadays is called “Beer and Marmalade” (if you want to hear a little more about it, a couple of members were on WORT Wisconsin radio. Just scroll down to "Radio Literature" that played on January 8, 2009), and we’ve been reading some good stuff. In January, we chose “Set This House in Order” by Matt Ruff. What a glorious, wonderful read this is! The premise is brilliant, the concept original. A Multiple Personality Disorder guy who’s living a relatively normal life gets asked for help by another MPD, a woman who’s barely aware of her other personalities. The two of them embark on an discovery trek that opens the past.

Ruff does a wonderful job in not only establishing the different personalities of Andrew and Penny/Mouse, but making sure each personality is distinct and unique. There’s a wonderful part where Andrew and Mouse are at a hotel, as we see Andrew watching TV, but immediately we know it’s not him, but the more adolescent Adam, flipping through the channels. Each personality held my interest; in fact, there were several of Mouse’s personalities that I would have liked to know more history; i.e., Drone and the Brain. How did they get that way?

I also really liked how Ruff stated facts nonchalantly, facts that became very important later on. Some ways he did it was done to pull you deeper into the story. I loved the line he does in the middle of the story: "My serenity lasted about twenty hours, until Sunday afternoon, when I killed Warren Lodge." Just that sentence, coming out of the blue after having a hard talk with Penny/Mouse, was enough to make me go, "Huh? He did what?" And then he proceeded to tell what happened, and it had me on needles and pins.

That’s one way he revealed surprises in the story. Other times, he did it so subtly, that when that surprise was revealed, at first I was astonished, but then think back to something a character said, and thought, Hey, that does make sense. And yes, there are a couple of twists in the book that made my jaw drop. For instance, Andrew keeps his mind in order by imagining it as a playhouse that contains all his personalities. In the book, he happens to be talking to a personality named Gideon:

"The first floor of Aaron’s playhouse. How many doors does it have?"
"Three," I said. "Front door and back door."
Gideon nodded. "Front door and back door…and that makes three, does it?"

Brrr! That gave me the chills! Well, okay, out of context it doesn’t. But read the book and don’t tell me that when you get to that part, a tiny ripple goes up your spine.

It was a little hard to read the history of abuse done to Andrew and Penny, perhaps harder on Penny than Andrew, because there was physical violence along with the sexual abuse. But I thought the scenes were effectively done, without going into graphic detail, and it shed light on how Andrew and Penny ended up that way. In fact, Andrew’s delving into his own past as he helps Penny is heart-wrenching as he is forced to confront things he himself had forgotten. How he dealt with that made me stay up past midnight, reading this book in a mere three days.

This is probably the best book about MPD I’ve ever read. Well, it’s the only MPD book I ever read, but I’m glad I did. This gets five different types of breakfast out of five, all served at the same time. And someone will have to invent "Virtual Twister" for real. It sounds like a very interesting game.

More thoughts on the closing of Realms of Fantasy & Year’s Best…

So I’ve been doing some thinking. Serious thinking. And I’ve come to a startling revelation.

Realms of Fantasy closing and The Years Best Fantasy & Horror Anthologies no longer being printed? Their ending don’t affect me at all.

It’s startling because I consider them the highest levels a writer can get in writing. When both of them folded, I was devastated, yes, in learning I won’t be getting any more stories from them. Which is sad, because from those venues I learned about Kelly Link, Theodora Goss, Nalo Hopkinson and other writers who inspired me to write.

But the startling part that got me was this: when was the last time I read either of those?

The Year’s Best Anthologies I haven’t picked up for a while because, well, I’ve been pretty busy; not to mention that my local library doesn’t have them on hand (actually, they do, but I’ll probably have to get it on loan from another neighborhood library, which could take a couple of days—not exactly self-gratifying if I have to put in an order for it instead of just taking it off the shelf I used to do in Chicago. Then again, I could always drive to another library that’s better stocked, but geez, that means that I wouldn’t be able to gripe about here…). And the last time I bought a copy of Realms of Fantasy was…ummm…hmmm…

Nowadays, I’m getting my short story fix online. There are a dozen of websites I go to on a monthly basis, and several more that I download to my mp3 player. (I swear, I will update my blog sidebar to show them) And these are all really good stories; perhaps not as the same caliber as what was in Realms of Fantasy, but I would’ve nominated them in a heartbeat for Year’s Best.

Yes, I’m still bummed that these venues are gone. But there are other markets out there. Markets that are easy to access. Markets that you don’t have to pay unless you want to. Markets that allow everyone to read, yet still have editors to filter out the really good stuff from just your average mediocre story.

This got nailed home to me this Sunday when my short story “The Liberation of Roscoe White” got put up at The Town Drunk. (What do you mean you haven’t read it yet? Stop what you’re doing and go read it! Go! Go now!). Some very good stories are on that sight (besides mine, of course). It’s nice that that I can give people a website and they can go and read my story for free, but it’s extra nice when an editor who runs a ezine tells me, “I like your story so much, I’ll pay for it to put it on my site.” That is nice.

The publishing world is changing. What does that mean to me? Well, it just means that I keep on writing and keep on submitting. I keep my eye on what markets are considered the best and send my best stories to them. And then I’ll keep writing. Granted, I’ll have to look to a new market to set my high standard bar to–

Then again, maybe I’ve already done that.

I just finished reading the Writers of the Future XXII Anthology. The first story was so-so, but there were other stories in there that blew me away.

One of these days, I’m going to get a story in there. Just you wait…

Speaking of which, congratulations to all the winners of the 4th quarter contest. You can find the winners on the WOTF website. The next contest deadline is April 1. All you writers better get writing.

New Story: “The Liberation of Roscoe White” published at The Town Drunk

Hot dog! A new story of mine is up and running! I like it when I get my stories published!

“The Liberation of Roscoe White” was among one of the first short stories I workshopped with my writers’ group back in Chicago. It’s also the first story I ever wrote that utilizes the “F-word”, or any amount of swearing, for that matter. An interesting learning process, to say the least. If you’re sensitive to strong language, you’ve been warned.

I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m grateful for The Town Drunk publishing it. I also find it a tad ironic, seeing that two of my favorite print repositories of fantasy have dried up. Hmm…

Anyway, “The Liberation of Roscoe White” is up. Enjoy!