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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The BEST Speculative Fiction?

Note: "Speculative" does not necessarily mean LSD induced surrealism.
Now accepting nominations for November's poll--what is the BEST speculative fiction that is not fantasy, science fiction, or horror?

For our next poll, I want to make sure the umbrella covers quite a bit--mostly because this is a place where fewer people do a lot of extensive reading. It's not that some of you don't read a lot of alternate history or distopian fiction, or whatever, but horror, sci-fi, and fantasy tend to get the most readers, and I think the polls would have low turn out if I did ALL of speculative fiction's sub-genres.

So this poll will be everything else.  All the speculative fiction that isn't easily tossed into one of those three can go here.This is "loosely" what counts as speculative fiction. "weird fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history." Just go nuts!

So I'm going to maintain my philosophy of being pretty liberal about nominations. If you've got a good idea that intersects with science fiction or fantasy that's okay, or if maybe you held back your urban fantasy suggestion from the fantasy poll because you felt like it had no place there, you can put it here. If you want to stretch the bounds of "speculative fiction" to include magical realism or surrealism, that's okay. If you feel like Spencer's The Fairy Queen isn't true fantasy, and want to put it here, that's fine. I trust your judgement.

Also, since we're dealing with sub-genres that are a little less well read, this needn't be stand alone or series. You can nominate either.

Rules: You may nominate two titles (stand alone books or series). You may "second" the nominations of as many other nominated titles as you like.  I will take the titles with the MOST "seconds" to the poll.  So don't forget to second the nominations of others that you like!

Also, be sure to check back periodically and see what new titles have been suggested.  The horror poll had a 12-way tie and only the titles that had been "seconded" multiple times made it to the actual poll.  I got this up late, so we'll probably start the poll about a week into November.

If there are ties, I will break them in the following way

  • Nominations made here (rather than as a reply on other social media will be favored.
  • If an author has more than two titles already on the poll, I will take the top two.
  • If a title is really stretching it as far as how well it fits on this poll.  
  • Voices that tend to be underrepresented in such polls (like women writers or people of color)
  • Any remaining ties (very unlikely) I will simply go mad with power and break by virtue of my personal opinion.


My two nominations will be Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro and Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami.

Oh and don't forget to go vote on the BEST Stand Alone Horror novel poll if you haven't already.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SSDW

I almost feel like this weeks update could be a link back to last week without missing a beat. Normally establishing a routine that measured would be a good thing, but in this week's case (unfortunately) it's more a case of "The Same Shit That Sucked Last Week Still Sucks."

  • I still don't have my laptop back.  The Apple Store SciGuy should probably realize that fixing it for free is awesome, but if they he tells me 3-5 days at the most, and I still haven't heard from them him in over a week (including one brush off call I made to the Emeryville store down to the R&D department) I'm still going to end up a customer with a bad taste in my mouth.
  • My writing is still affected by the absence of Vera. I didn't realize how often we danced in the cracks between chunks of my life. A paragraph or two on BART...  A few sentences on the bus... A polish pass in the few minutes before I teach a class... It adds up faster than I thought. ("Pave paradise and put up a parking lot....") I am still able to sit down at my desktop and write (some fiction and this blog) but it takes blocked time and is very inconvenient.
  • I'm still very excited, but a little anxious about our coming bundle of psychic crime fighting joy. I'm already squeezing my leisure time into the moments between the ticks. I sometimes do 12 and 16 hour days among my three jobs. Some days I even have trouble finding time to read--which is one of my bellwethers for "I am way way way too busy." And the little bugger isn't even here yet.  
  • Whenever that feeling comes up in my life, I feel like something has to give. There is this power struggle between my will to write and the forces that don't feel writing is legitimate or real.  I don't mean I have to write a nasty blog post stamping my foot and saying that writing is real work or e-mail a couple of people. I mean I have to make some incredibly hard decisions about what I'm able and what I'm willing to get rid of because life has reached the point where it has demanded too much of my writing to continue. So that's got me pretty anxious--these breaking points are rarely pretty.
  • The Brain is now allocating upwards of 80% of her CPU power to nesting, which means she wants everything uber-clean. I told her housework was not actually my superpower, but I ended up spending hours and hours doing it anyway at her behest. What can I say, she controls the wireless wifi and the ice maker.
However, I suppose there are some developments.
  • The laptop thing actually affected me in another, more-different way this weekend. A whole new layer of suck frosting was added to the fucking bullshit cake. Last week I just didn't have it to write on. But this weekend I was SUPPOSED to have it, but I didn't. I kind of planned on that extra productivity.  I can usually do some writing, but the amount of time I can be home and sitting in front of my desktop severely limits my productivity.  I had some articles planned for both NaNo and an Ender's Game  that I have half written and earmarked for Ace of Geeks (that is a tad more political than I like to get here).  Both really need to be done by Nov 1st if they're to be topical but time is running out, and I may have to jettison something. I really hate that feeling of having marbles rolling around in my head that can't come out.
  • My knees hurt from scrubbing floors on my hands and knees. I'm not sure when this body stopped being 20something but I wish it would stop trying to improvise on a good thing.
  • Playing Supernatural on my iPad when I'm cleaning the house continues to be a good choice. It is seriously one of the only shows interesting enough to stand but vapid enough to be able to NOT WATCH and still follow without trouble. If I leave the room, I just assume I missed Dean saying "Sam. You're my brother, and I'm going to look out for you," and then dying horribly. 
  • I'm usually pretty zen about my choices. I know I can't be a writer and not write, so my priorities usually mean I have very little social life and very little non-reading leisure time. Usually that's no problem--just the cost of doing business. But every once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet about someone around me having the time to just sit and talk with a friend or pursue a new romantic relationship when what I have to do is another load of dishes and a few more hours of writing before bed. I'm sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the ramp up of the time I spend on chores and such. Nope. Totally unrelated.
  • I've been trying to lose weight and I've hit my second weight goal.  (Yay.)
Most of the time "same as last week" is a pretty good update for a writer. It means routine, and routine is good for both creativity and productivity. But in this case, if this last fortnight or so had a face, I would punch it...in the face.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing Prompt: NaNo Warm Ups

Why yes that IS the sign up page.
I probably should have posted this last week, but Chris gets getting hacked by The Evil Mystery Blogger, and so he's got the SciGuy working overtime on internet security protocols.  It's made hacking the signal harder than normal. 

Fortunately it seems like Writing About Writing might be in it for the long haul (mores the pity), and NaNoWriMo certainly isn't going anywhere anytime soon (because it rocks!) so perhaps this will be useful next year or as a crash prompt for this year.  


So  dreaded event, and most amateur writers determined not to be among the 80% who wash out, here is a prompt dedicated to National "Novel" Writing Month and gearing up for the insanity. While the best preparation is, and will always be, a habit of daily writing, here are some "stretches" and "warm up exercises" that will help the event itself not be quite such a shock to your system.  A little bit of practice with the logistics of NaNo will probably be more helpful to you than extensive outlining and character sketches.

1- Sit down and write 1667 words at least once before the event.  Get a feel for it so you know what to expect.

To put it bluntly, NaNo can be a shock.

If you're a NaNo purist, and you won't start your novel until Nov. 1st, then write something else, but the trick here is that it CANNOT be a free write. Free writing is too fast. You can whip out 1667 words of free write in an hour if you're a good typist. You need to do something that takes creativity. Something where you could get stuck trying to decide what comes next.

2-Time yourself. You're going to need to give yourself a few hours, but it may take anywhere between two and five hours--possibly longer (and very rarely, shorter). Pay attention to whether the session felt unusually easy or unusually difficult to help you decide how much time to allot for writing each day during the event.

Your time will fluctuate from this--and possibly dramatically, but this will give you a rough baseline expectation for how many hours each and every day you will need to set aside for word-smithing.  (A good rule of thumb is to multiply this time by 1.5 and block that time off each day.) Also, keep this one truism of novels in mind--you may be faster at the beginning and the end of the month, but it's a pretty fair bet that in the middle you're going to have some long days. That's just the way stories work during their first drafts. Plan for it.

3- Get yourself in the habit of writing.  Most people do not quit NaNo because the first day is too hard. They get up, write, and say to themselves "No problem. I wonder why this is such a big deal."  Day four or five is about where the burn out starts to kick in--it sneaks up on them like last night's curry. Suddenly they're burning out faster than a boy band in the late 90's. It can really help if you've got a bit of routine already going. It's up to you how close to 1667 words you want to come, but it is undeniable that the more you're in the habit of just finding the time to sit and write, the easier NaNo will be for you.  Get a few days in just so you know what the routine is going to feel like and how it's going to impact your schedule.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Mailbox: Feedback and Follow Up

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  And I will even reply to replies of replies--that's how cool I am.]     

All of today's questions are either emails or comment replies to previous mailboxes.


Why won't you actually answer the threesome question?

I totally answered the threesome question...more than once!  Even though it's not about writing, it's not actually anyone's business (other than a very select few), and I don't need people who know me in real life trying to "reverse engineer" the details in a way that compromises the privacy of people in my life who don't want to be blogged about, I told you anyway.  I am straight up awesome like that.

Super heroes have a lot of sex--even "behind enemy lines." The comic books don't even do it justice--not even the ones you have to be eighteen to buy. It's the seedy underbelly of the crime fighting world, and not a lot of people talk about it, but it's just one of those things that happens when you're dealing with ridiculously athletic bodies, spandex, outfits that reveal way too much cleavage, people who work out like twelve hours a day, and the occasional morally questionable super with the ability to control minds, kick out pheromones, or possess people.

Throw some Everclear in there and we pretty much drop our skivvies through the floor at the slightest provocation--and in Beefcake and The Ripatron's case, that's literally through the floor.

It squicks the norms to think about all that boning going on, so we don't exactly advertise it, but it's kind of the cost of doing business.  So when you ask me if I've been in a threesome, I gotta tell you that except for some sweet Sarah McLaughlin love with a norm (who ended up being literally thrown under a bus by an invisible techno ninja--very sad) I don't have a lot of sex that isn't kinky group stuff.

Just how we roll when life is short, 90% of us are double jointed, and most of our powers have some sort of way in which they could apply to our tongues.


I guess I should just set my world in some SF/F world so that I don't have to do so much research.

Woah.

Stop.

Be careful.  If you think your the sf/f fandom will go easy on you, think again. There is evil there that never sleeps. Think of those nerds asking the question about the ship design in Galaxy Quest or the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. These are the guys who point out that the Klingon translation for "attack" was different in Star Trek III from the Season 3 finale of The Next Generation (or whatever).  These are some very, very picky peeps. If you have the slightest hiccup in internal consistency or plausible world building, you will be torn asunder.  Not that this particular brand of nit picking is constructive criticism or difficult to ignore, but if you're worried about history wanks getting all up in your grill about inaccuracies, understand that these guys will be worse.


So you are always bragging about your Summa Cum Laude thing from SFSU.  Which I looked up--you would need a 3.85.  But I know you transfered [sic] from a community college and G.P.A. would include your community college grades. I don't mean to be insulting, but why didn't you go to a better school, like UC Berkeley or something?

Actually, I got a 3.93 or a 3.94--I'm actually not sure what it got up to with my last round of straight A's factored in.

Now THAT'S me bragging.

You're right though.  I transferred out of Diablo Valley College (where I now teach) with a 3.8.  I could have gone to UC if I wanted to.

I picked State  because the ratio of students was better, the classes were taught by faculty instead of grad students (except for a few survey courses), and because they had a creative writing program at the undergrad level.  (Berkeley does not.)

I very much wanted an education, and I didn't much care about getting a degree or how "prestigious" it was. State schools are less rigorous (I certainly wouldn't be Summa Cum Laude in UC Berkeley) which I knew meant they would be less regarded in the professional world, but they have a better reputation for teacher interaction, class sizes, and a flexible pedagogy.  Plus, I wanted to take a Creative Writing undergrad program, and Berkeley didn't have one.  UCs are more interested in whether their faculty are publishing and staying on the cutting edge of their respective fields and far less about how well they teach.

Since I wasn't trying to get into a cutting edge discipline, it wasn't really a tough choice.


I've been trying to establish a routine for writing for years now.  Words per day. Hours at the page. I use a computer without wireless.  I've taken all the games off of it.  I even have my boyfriend take the remote controls with him to work so I can't turn on the TV.  It doesn't matter.  Nothing seems to work--I always end up distracted.

I assume you've rounded up all the usual suspects like writing at a time that is good for you, and writing at the same time every day. I can't stress enough how much these simple things can help.

First of all, you should probably ask yourself--honestly and pointedly--if you enjoy writing or if you enjoy the thought of being a writer.  I hate to be the blunt splash of cold water on the face of your soul, but it kind of sounds like you might not really like writing that much, and if you would rather scrub the gunk out of the sink drain than write, maybe it's time to make some tough choices.  We tend to do things we'd rather be doing first and postpone things we'd rather not be doing.  Are you SURE you love writing?  Really sure?

Because on my BEST days, I have to remind myself that other things exist besides writing and books.  My eyes will be burning and my fingers aching and I will think, Okay, Chris.  That's enough. Time for some Skyrim.  Or put on Psych in the background and do the dishes.

However, if you really know that you really do actually like writing--or you're just not ready to let go yet--I have a couple of suggestions.  You seem to have a couple of good steps in getting yourself physically away from distraction.  Those are important.  Maybe I can fill in a few other things that might help.

1) Here's what I do when distraction is really being a brat.  I tell myself that I'm going to sit down and write one sentence.  Just ONE sentence. And hey, if I want to go back to whatever it was after one sentence, that's fine, but I'm at least going to write that one.  And when I'm done with that, I tell myself "how about the paragraph."  I'll take a nice long break after the paragraph if I really want to, but why not just fire that out.

Usually I can squeeze out enough from this to get the ball rolling.

2) Go ahead and let yourself be distracted--but only in measured, staggered breaks.  "In order to earn the right to watch Agents of SHIELD, I have to write one page."  Breaks are actually very important--especially if you're in that place where you're not on a roll yet.  (Once you're on a roll, fuck the breaks. Let loose the juice!)

Go ahead and give yourself a lot of breaks--one every fifteen minutes or so.  Don't feel guilty about them. Take them with zest.

3) This one might seem counter-intuitive, but you have to relax.  You can't let the stress from the fact that you're not working enough wind you up.  Eat right. Eat BREAKFAST! Get a good night's sleep.  Learn to unwind properly. (You might even START with your break and intersperse the writing between break times until you learn to do it the other way around.) Relax.... Stress puts our bodies in survival mode.  If you are in survival mode, it is very hard to concentrate, and that goes doubly for trying to be creative.

4) Set a goal before you sit down.  Know what you want to accomplish.  The more specific the better.  "Writing" is very vague.  But "writing five pages" gives you something tangible.

5) Break your big goal down.  (Maybe this should be 4b.) One mammoth goal is too hard. You will find a million things to do before "Write a novel" but "Write the first paragraph of my novel" is completely reasonable.

6) And this isn't exactly USDA approved, but almost every artist I know swears by it: caffeine. Don't treat your body like a bilge dump, but you can use it to your advantage if you're having trouble focusing. (I generally do not need it, but on my worst days, it helps.) Unless you have a specific neurological construction that is fairly rare among artists, you probably will concentrate better after a couple of cups of coffee.  Might be worth a shot if everything else is failing.  It won't take you long to learn exactly how much you need--for me it's two Starbucks Refreshers or a pot of tea.  Once I drink that much caffeine Starship Concentration will be leaving space dock no matter how scatterbrained I was prior.

These should do the trick, and if they don't...tough question time.


Do you ever take breaks from your writing?  I don't mean like little ten minute breaks, but like weeks off or something?

Sort of.  I take time off from the OBLIGATION of writing.  For example, I've taken a week or two off from the blog since I started it eighteen months ago.  If I am working hard on some kind of fiction, I may give myself a day or two off of that.

But I don't really take time off from writing.  I usually writing SOMETHING every day.  It might just be a half hour into a personal journal, but I rarely skip a day completely.  Writing is how I process and how I cope with a lot of stuff, so if I were to go more than a couple of days without , I would start to feel very ill at ease. I've actually dropped into severe depressions back when I was in school and too busy to write or before I established the habit of daily writing. Now I know better.


Oh my god!  You were married? 

Yep.

You should do a selfie--complete with "ironic" duck lips.  Do IT!!!!

I'm going to hate myself in the morning....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Writer's Life

Do we REALLY want to know about THIS guy?
Really?
Chris is a total tool who lives the life beyond the persona through which this blog is written. I don't know why you wouldn't rather have me talking about threesomes or tentacle anime instead, but apparently non-W.A.W. Chris has some sort of strange appeal.

No accounting for taste, I guess.

Most of the time Monday entries are not much more than what's going on in my life or something that happened that week, and will not be here.  If you feel some sort of strange compulsion to dig through my exploits at that level of detail, you can follow the "A Writer's Life" tag or use the archives tool.

However periodically I write something that is more about me as a person, or I write about some sort of major event in my life. These are the biggies. Warning: superheroic realism and creative non-fiction are not unheard of.

Let's Get Personal                                                                        An Introvert's Birthday
Daily Dose of Demon Dueling                                                      Our Newest Little Crime Fighter
Why I Left Islam                                                                           Enter the Contrarian
A Pound of Flesh/An Ounce Returned                                          Over The Hill
Chris-alyis (Get it?)                                                                                 
Coming Out As Feminist                                                             My Life Just Got More Complicated
Opting Out: My Dubious Future in Traditional Publishing         A Writer Goes to Burning Man
Why I Literally Can't Even                                                          Through: The Only Way Out
Sabbati Terminus Manibus Jazzicus

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Carry On

When I was young, my father had this truly mammoth collection of cassette tapes recorded from other people's LPs. They took up a whole bookshelf stacked upwards on each other--sometimes two deep--and he would pop them into his high fidelity stereo with the snazzy cassette player (right below the eight track), crank up the volume, and fill the house with contemporary hits.

Of the time....

After I got over my Air Supply phase, my Michael Jackson phase, my Madonna phase, my Starship phase, My Phil Collins/Genesis phase, and then my everything-my-parents-love-must-(by-definition)-suck phase, I eventually had to face the cold, harsh reality that my formative years were heavily influenced by seventies rock artists.  It's not that I don't love the movements that have come sense--a shuffle all tour through my iPod is an eclectic journey that will have you listening to Mozart, Ke$ha, Gershwin, and Garbage, Die Form, or Covenant are as sure as Enya, Lorena Kennett, or orchestral versions of Final Fantasy Music if you are brave enough to hit "Shuffle All."

Beware the groove baby.

But something about those seventies artists always sounds extra..."right" in my head.  Their chord progressions. Their resolves. Their really shitty synthesizers. It's not that other music isn't good--despite what Facebook memes say, some modern music is very, very good. It's just that there's a place in my brain that will always hear those artists as the boy who wasn't too old yet to sit in his mother's lap and suck his thumb.

My thirties have been a pastiche of discovering love for bands I was only vaguely aware of.  Blue Oyster Cult, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan (Oh GOD yes, Steely Dan!), Led Zeppelin, Kiss, The Clash, and of course Kansas.

I've always loved this song even before Screw The Bechdel Test Supernatural made it popular by playing it every season finale with an extended clip of scenes from previous episodes. ("Carry on Winchester sons! Another season's almost done. Don't you die no more!") Even though it's a little morbid and/or religious in it's overall theme, it seems to perfectly capture the soul of an artist. And I've always heard this song as a writer.

You don't have to know what you're doing. You don't have to have some perfect clarity of vision. You will never "make it," whether it be to heights or vision or wisdom--you can only do better than before. You just have to keep working--keep struggling.  Keep writing (in a writer's case). You pretend to know what you're doing ("masquerading as a man with a reason") and you do the best you know how to do. 

And as it turns out when you do keep struggling, and keep struggling, you look back and start to realize your creative life adds up to something. It matters. (Or you get to go to heaven...depending on how literal and religious you want to be about the meaning.)

For what could be more artistic (and really more human) than the idea that until we are feeding worms, we are defined not by our perfection but by our struggle. No one's going to sit down one day and write the great American novel.  No one.  Writing--and really life--is nothing more than the ambition each day to be better.

Carry on.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Best Novel In The Horror Genre

Is IT the best horror novel of all time?  Two ties and one close race could come down to your vote.

As we move into the last third of October, we're running out of time to vote and many of our races are neck in neck.  It looks like IT or Dracula is going to win unless there's some real heavy voting for others in the last week or so.  That means the other will probably end up in second place.  But the competition for third place is also close. As of this writing it's basically a four way race--two ties but all within a few votes of each other.

Sorry Tommyknockers.  You did well in the nomination phase, but no one wants to give you any love when they only have two votes to spare.

~gumtoothed voice~
Back in my day...no killer clown
would have held a candle to me.
Damn monster doesn't even actually
kill ONE of those pesky kids.
They have to kill themselves.
 How is that scary?
The poll itself is on the left hand side of your screen.  It's the lowest"widget" down that side. Everyone gets 2 (two) votes. 

The poll closes at midnight on November 1st (unless I fall asleep, and then it closes the next morning after I have my damned coffee).

Also--for those of you who have read this far--nominations for the next poll will start BEFORE this poll is done, so start to think about what stand alone speculative fiction books you might think are the best, but which don't fall easily into categories of fantasy, science fiction, or horror.  I'm not going to do a separate poll for alt history, super hero, distopia/utopia, etc since most of those genres are less well read, so I think the poll will be more robust if it is just "other."


Monday, October 21, 2013

Lappies, Rooms, and Anxiety. Oh my!

My impromptu Lappie death hiatus will SORT OF continue this week; however, I have been able to get some good writing done on my desktop.  Most of it is fiction, but there's some decent stuff around here somewhere. I'm running out of time to grouse about NaNoWriMo and Ender's Game, so I'm going to have to get those articles fired up with or without a laptop.

Crazy how much you don't realize you take advantage of the "write anywhere" ability of a laptop until it is gone. I'm not particularly good at longhand--my wrist and hand start hurting right away, and since most of the things I write end up online, I would be transcribing immediately anyway.

Articles will return this week--they just might not be the robust examples of awesome that you've all grown accustomed to.  I've got a couple of things of substance cooking, but the problem is still that there are half a dozen articles saved on the Mac (including the last bit of 15 Things Not to Do to a Writer).  I think some of it is in the iCloud, and I could get to it if I really wanted, but some of it went down with the ship.

Fortunately there is some good news on that front. The SciGuy is going to fix the hard drive. Apparently, he has to order a part, so it's going to be out until Friday, but he thinks Vera will be as good as new--possibly with a little memory loss. You'd think having an R&D department with a temporal physicist, cloning biotech, and computer genius would mean you didn't have to wait a week to get your laptop fixed...but, we're on such a shoestring budget here, and I'll take what I can get. At least the fact that I'm his boss means it will be free.

I spent yesterday cleaning out my quarters in The Hall of Rectitude. We've been doing some refurbishing before the Uberdude and The Brain have their little bundle of crime fighting joy. (I'm still thinking this kid is going to be psychic, because the things it mind controls The Brain into eating....woah.) I want to get my room straightened into a place I can retreat to if needed.

The problem is Uberdude and his projects. There are like ten of them throughout the house. He starts them in good faith, and I know he really doesn't mean to be someone who forgets about stuff for weeks, but a week later, the tools and materials are still all over the super-secret fortress and the lair, and if I try to clean them up, he yells at me "I wasn't finished!" So the main foyer, the battle simulation room, and the tactical planning room with the giant wall screen are all just covered in junk from the baby shower that was almost a month ago.

This is sub-optimal when you work with a hero known as "Miasma."
The less said about that, the better.
I haven't felt very comfortable in the house at large for a while, but lately it's gone from bad to worse. With the dormitory's bathroom being totally redone, the little emergency bathroom we keep in the lower levels (right next to the VTOL Jet of Rectitude's launch pad) is the only one right now.

Plus we've piled up boxes in the training simulator from when we moved three years ago, and I'm not allowed to get rid of it or put it away since it's all super villain weaknesses. ("You can't get rid of that old answering machine Chris! It's the only thing that can stop Cold Call's horrible over-the-phone freeze ray!"  "But you defeated Cold Call! He's in Arcslam Asylum." "But he could ESCAPE....at any point!! So we can never throw any of this stuff away ever.") They keep saying they're going to take care of it, but there's always some giant hornet army or tidal wave of doom or evil league of evil from which to save the city.

Recently the baby has been psychically ordering us (from within the womb) to stock up on clothes and toys and stack them in its own private quarters. Now that room is filling up with junk too. Diapers and powder and toys and clothes and electronic components and a schematic for a psionic amplification gun.

So the whole house looks a little bit like it could be the set of a post apocalyptic survival movie. And not the touching kind about the power of the human spirit. I'm talking the ones where you wonder if humanity's entire civilized edifice could come crashing down in a tragic heartbeat and return us to our savage roots.

I usually keep my room a mess because it's just a place I crash at night, and I enjoy the house to live in, but seeing as I can't really keep the Hall in any livable condition, it seems like that is shifting to be almost backwards. So I busted loose with some major cleaning to try and make my personal space more inhabitable. Four hours of cleaning off the ground in guts from the Octorian/Ninja war (roughly this time last year) and it looks a little better.

I gotta be honest: I'm excited about this baby, but a little anxious as well. Being the one sidekick in an entire Crime Fighting League means I do most of the cleaning around The Hall of Rectitude. Baby's not even here yet, and I've reached a tipping point where I can no longer keep up. I can't even imagine what's going to happen when you have dirty diapers with a superhero's superpoop thrown into the mix and the increased inability of any back up due to the difficulty of tossing a long day of fighting crime onto a second shift of raising a psychic not to end up being an antihero....or worse.

Mostly I'm worried about how my writing is going to fit in. The accumulation of JUNK is kind of squeezing me out of some of my preferred writing places. I can (and will) find a way to make it work because writers who wait around for everything to be perfect end up being waiters instead of writers.  If I have to leave the house every day for hours or barricade my door with psychic reflectors, I will find the time to write, but I do feel kind of squeezed and anxious.  I may be able to write anywhere or write at any time, but I definitely have my preferences.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pardon our Dust

You might be noticing some cosmetic changes taking place in the top menus today.  I also plan to add a new sub-menu to the Reliquary for dealing with life stuff now that I'm sharing a bit more personal information.

I don't know exactly how Blogger R.S.S. feed works, but I apologize if these new pages and/or menus trigger feed spam.  Everything should be set up and done by the end of today.  So apologies in advance if there's a deluge.

I'm headed to the Apple store in (~looks at his watch~) well, in about five minutes, so one way or another I hope to come home with a functioning laptop--even if that means passing the budget equivalent of a kidney stone to get a new one.  So I should be able to hit the ground running on on quality updates by next week.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Feed and subscription readers

I'm going to say this on the social media where I share articles, but for those of you on feeds and subscriptions I should probably mention it here:

The impromptu hiatus (due to Vera's death) continues.  I got some really good writing done today, but not quite enough to put up a post.  I'm due at the Apple Store tomorrow at 3:30 and hopefully they can bring Vera back from shadow.  If that doesn't work, I'll figure out something else, but I'm pretty stuck on having a laptop.  Working on the desktop is doable (and I do it because artists find ways to make their art no matter what), but it's filled with distractions, my room isn't a great environment, and I can't take my work anywhere.  (Turns out whipping lappie out to write a paragraph here and there really adds up.)  So while I got most of an entry done, it's probably going to be next week before Writing About Writing really gets back on its feet.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last Night a Laptop Saved My Life (A Small Hiatus)

So as I mentioned at the end of yesterday's post, my laptop, Vera, died.

Well, she didn't die, exactly.  She fell into shadow.  There were orcs chasing us, and Vera could tell there was a big problem happening on her hard drive.  In her best Gandalf impression she looked at me, and even Uberdude (who is a whiz with computers) and with greasy strings of hair framing her lappie face, she said,  "A common OS error.  A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you.  Run!"

But like fools, we tried to stay and fight the problems as they arose. We thought Vera meant run to try to fix her, but what she really meant was run TO THE APPLE STORE!

[For maximum enjoyment of today's post, please hit play on the video below and enjoy your daily dose of Writing About Writing with background music.]


Vera turned to the other computers in the house.  The Brain's CPU, Uberdude's laptop, my iPad but looked at my laptop in particular.  "You must lead him on, Airgone.  (Come to think of it, I think she said Mac Air is gone in reference to herself....maybe.)  "The muse is near. You must lead him.  He must not stop writing."

We started to make headway on the problem using the online suggestions.  There seemed to be options related to reinstalling the OS.   We saved pictures and documents, and thought we were reformatting the drive.  Things were going as well as could be expected.  Little problems were falling one by one, and it looked like we might make it.

But the demon was still behind us, tracking our motion.  No matter how many little issues we dealt with like proper back ups and saving all the Writing About Writing Facebook page images, the bigger issue remained, growing worse with every time we tried to reboot.

And Vera/Gandalf was right.  This foe was beyond even Uberdude.  The OS encountered an error while uploading, and erased options from the files itself.  Suddenly there was no recognizable HD to reformat.  Even the apple logo had turned into just a folder with a question mark in it.  All was lost.

Vera turned to face the demon as we ran on.  I looked back, but Uberdude pulled me onward.  "We can't help her," he said.  "It's just going to have to go to the Genius Bar."

"Noooooooooooo!" I screamed, reaching impotently towards the Lion OX bar.

Vera faced the demon, her face etched with fatalistic determination. "YOU SHALL NOT PASS...safe mode!" she cried.

Then as the demon tried to destroy the hard drives, Vera erased them--along with herself--to stop it. She took it down with her. Not the physical body but her soul, and the essence all that she ever was, and fell into the abyss with the problem that caused her.

She turned one last time as her grasp on this world faded and the Apple logo faded into a question mark. She looked at me and Uberdude.  "Fly you fools.......to the Emeryville Bay Street Apple Retail Outlet."

(Hopefully you're around 4:45 in that Youtube track about now....)

Sadly, now that Vera has fallen into shadow, I lack a functioning laptop.  I can, and will, still do my writing, but I lack mobility--which means not only writing, but uploading entries from anywhere with wifi just became impossible.  I can still work off my desktop, but it has certain limits.  Plus most of the articles I had half written were on Vera.  So W.A.W. is probably on a partial/functional hiatus for at LEAST a day or two while I try to fix this. The convenience of writing on the BART or between classes added a lot to my productivity--enough that I didn't realize it until it was gone.

I hope to have a minimal disruption, but you can probably expect that we won't be back up and running tomorrow, but I'll get something up by Friday at the latest.  After that, things might get tricksy with the update schedule until/unless I get a laptop again.

Hopefully at the end of all this, it becomes Vera the White (instead of Vera the White Screen of Death) but I don't know if she'll be coming back from the dead or not.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Daily Dose of Demon Dueling

Like most artists, I struggle with depression.

Unlike many artists, I usually do pretty well in that struggle.

I have not had a good week this last week.

I don't know where the cart or the horse work out their differences when it comes to artists and their mental demons, but the connection is hard to argue.  Even artists without clinical bipolar diagnoses, the predilection towards mania and depression, and the chemical addictions that often accompany the artist's attempts to self medicate their extremes is well established--we're a messed up gaggle of geese, we are. Aristotle talked about this predilection with his idea of "fine line between genius and madness" that is almost a cliche these days. Even the Greeks thought that the muses were as likely to drive a person insane as inspire them to artistic creation.

Fucking capricious muses.

And even though there's no end of cranky backlash when someone else points out that artists tend to be a fucked up crew, secretly we've all bitten our nails down to the cuticle that maybe the shoe fits.

I wonder sometimes if creativity is not a Faustian deal, for I always grow higher in my peaks and lower in my valleys when I am deliberately tapping hard into my creative side.  Is there something about the eye we turn on the world that demands a heavy toll in mental well being.  Or does my post hoc my ergo's proctor all over the place? Are the brains predisposed to the ravages of such extremes the same ones that see the world in hues and shades that are just beyond the perception of others.

Are we staring into the abyss when we tap into raw creativity?  Does it stare back? Does it roll its eyes at our cliches?

And there again, it may simply be more pragmatic. Artists have long been outcasts under enormously stressful situations. Working hours a day for a pittance, only to be told that one is lazy and and not really a member of society can harsh even the kitten-filledest of squees.

Seriously, I've seen an artist sigh angstfully at a box of puppies after reading a review.

But for me, it's always been a trade off.  If I get creative, I start experiencing the rise and fall of that world--the joy of creation's flow and the emo-flow when it's dries to a trickle.  I will get depressed if I don't write, of course, but it has always been possible to simply journal and fiddle with things minimally creative.  I have spent years of my life noodling away at the "someday-I'll-publish-this" project at a snail's pace without any real creative commitment, and in that way it has always been possible to "be a writer" but still keep my feet on the ground and experience minimal depression and minimal highs.

And normalcy is more seductive than deep dish stuffed pizza...held by a supermodel....who's one of twins....and–okay, no it's not that seductive. I think I should have stopped at pizza.

But when I'm really working it--the highs and lows become as cyclical and natural as inhaling and exhaling. It's as if grabbing the tether line of a balloon as it takes off into the air sky guarantees an inevitable crash to the earth below as much as it promises exhilarating heights and a view of the world from a perspective few ever see.

I will fall...eventually.

I will always fall eventually.  (Usually with "worth it" slipping from my lips as the ground lances towards me like an assassin's stroke.)  But I also know that once I've coughed up some blood and reset my broken bones, another balloon will be along.

Whatever the reason, I have usually been able to contain my depression to a small paddock for most of my life.  I'm basically a happy person with a very dangerous pet.  Oh it gets out once in a while, when I forget to close the gate, but I've struggled all my life to check the gate.

Check the gate.

Check the gate.

I rarely have to deal with it raging out of control, jumping the fence, or tearing across the countryside to trample poor unsuspecting villagers, but it definitely has. During a period in my early twenties when my parents were divorcing and I thought I was simply unweddable within the Muslim community, depression had reign over my life, and I couldn't get out of bed. When I was fourteen I swallowed a bottle of Advil and went to sleep expecting never to wake up because life had just become too much. After my divorce, I sat in my room, pretending to play World of Warcraft, but actually just watching the character generation screen for hours.

It's always out there. Waiting for me to lose my grip.

When I feel it gearing up for a good thrashing, I get lots of sleep, make sure I'm eating enough fruits and vegetables, and make myself go out and take long walks listening to music as loudly as the iPod will go. It usually does the trick.

This last week, it did not.  I've still got a little storm cloud following me everywhere I go.

I know some people just want to call me human.  That's just the nature of life, Chris. Can't have good without the bad, Chris. Everyone has bad moods, Chris. We all go through down spirals sometimes, Chris. You're not some fucking special snowflake because you spent a weekend in bed, Chris. We all swallow bottles of--well okay we don't all do that, but you were just being dramatic, Chris.

That's me. Quite the little thespian. I wonder if the thought crossed anyone's mind that maybe I really did have a problem.

It may all be true, and I hate the modern chic face of hypochondria to bandy about, diagnosing oneself with mental illnesses, so I won't be a part of it. But diagnosed or not, I've always felt like it if I let go of control, even for a moment, my depression would grab the wheel and drive my life off a cliff. Some days my smile is as much to combat my demons as it is a sign of true emotion. If I stop fighting it, even for a second, it will metastasize over my life like the alien amoebae in Evolution when it came in contact with heat.

(What, you didn't watch that piece of cinematic genius? It's got David Duchovny fighting dinosaurs...your argument is invalid. Now let me get back to my depressive splat...)

When I've let go...when I've let my moods have their way with me, I go down the rabbit hole, and it's deeper than I fear. I've had some truly terrible weeks and even months of darkness from which I thought I maybe wasn't going to come out. I thought maybe the only way to end such abject palpable misery was to cut off it's life at the source. Obviously, I didn't do that. And I got better. But even though I don't succumb to depression often, it's like a character I can feel always watching me from across the room. Waiting for me to fuck up and give it an in.

I don't want that to come across as an incitement to all those with less ability to do well in their own struggles. I am in no way saying "exercise and greens are panacea" or "if I did it, anyone can." That's a raging pile of bullshit.

For some, Artax is sinking into the Swamp of Sorrows, and they're not just going to walk it off.

I'm lucky. That's all it is. I got fortunate in the cosmic lottery. Not fortunate enough to never have to deal with depression, but fortunate enough that I could actually do the dealing myself and not have a chronic illness bad enough to need medication.

I can only hope that the sun is coming out from a cloud soon because naps and walks have been taken, vegetables scarfed, (and even caffeine abused), and I am no closer to feeling this funk lifting. However, even when I sink in for the long haul blues jam sessions of the soul, I am consistently reminded that it is fortunate this impotence to "just snap out of it" is not my reality. Not everyone can say the same.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Help The Blogs You Love

You may be wondering why it’s Friday and there is no Mailbox here, or why we passed by Wednesday without even wrapping up 15 Things Not to Do to Writers (Unless You Want Them to Hate You.  But that article will have to wait, for while it may seem to my regular readers like I just did this, it’s been a couple of months, and that means we’re overdue for my humble request to you for a little reciprocity as an artist and entertainer struggling for a few dollars a day.

Statistically 1 person in 10,000 will accidentally click this.
Gold mine!
A lot of websites are a bit aggressive about how they appeal to readers for proliferation, donations, and advertising revenue.  Pop ups ask you questions like “Do you like killing puppies?” and ask you to click “Yes” or “No--please sign me up for the weekly newsletter.”  Or they have share buttons that float down the screen no matter where you are--sometimes obscuring parts of the article.  And of course there are sites that make you watch ads if you want to get to their content.

And in some cases, this is nothing more than the “Red Queen Race” of internet tactics (everyone runs really fast but you don't seem to move). People don’t want to be troubled with ads, so they employ ever evolving, sophisticated ad blockers that remove this nonsense completely--partially in a totally legitimate effort to get rid of increasingly obnoxious ads, partially because they believe content comes from the content fairies and everyone ought to be happy creating art and entertainment without getting paid for it.

Sadly, those fairies died out shortly after Glasgow when the cave painters couldn't pay the rent on the cave, got evicted, and died of starvation.  Since then, artists at least need their bills paid if they're to go on creating.  People with lots of advertising money to pay for pop ups and must-watch ads may have ways to force you to partake, but I don't.  And I wouldn't employ obnoxious floating share bars or pop ups that ask you to save the kittens if I could.

But what I will do, is every couple of months remind my regular readers and inform my new ones, how they can really change the trajectory of Writing About Writing's fate.   These are the things that will really matter. Right now this blog is just a LITTLE bit beyond a hobby.  While I love it and probably won't stop, I also can't give it the effort and attention I want, and if either of my other two jobs flares up, they take priority.  But possibilities do exist for copy editing (badly needed), more quality articles, fewer missed articles, and best of all fewer appeals like this one.

Not everything you can do to support a blog has to involve money, but if you just visit a website, block its ads, enjoy it without ever donating to its creator, and skim past its efforts to raise its visibility and/or a few dollars, don't be too surprised if it disappears into the night.  Here are the ways (in rough order of their usefulness) to help W.A.W. not only survive, but possibly to thrive:

1- A small donation to my Paypal account.  
Simply put, nothing will contribute more to the ongoing survival of Writing About Writing, support the site more, or ensure future offerings of fiction and timely articles than will a few dollars.  Nothing fuels an an artists' or entertainers' sense of duty more than feeling like they have a patron's generosity to live up to.  (Trust me.  Some days guilt over the Patron/Muse's generosity is all that keeps me going.)

"Support your local artist," can't just be a bumper sticker slogan.  If you want any artist or entertainer to be able to go on creating, the very best way to do that is to make sure their rent stays paid and their electricity stays on.

2- Turn off your adblock for the chrisbrecheen.blogspot domain.  
The very tiny trickle of revenue that comes in from having ads on this blog comes from two places.  One is ad clicks (see below), and the other is page views.  However, the only page views that count are the ones that can SEE THE ADS.  So I might get about a penny per 100 pageviews but only if those 100 people do not have their adblock on.  This means that if you turn off your adblock for just those sites you love, you help contribute to the tiny amount of revenue this blog makes without ever spending a dime or clicking an ad.  Just by visiting the site, you'll be supporting me a tiny bit each time.

You can turn off your adblock for a single domain, but have it remain on for the rest of the web.  Simply click on the adblock icon and choose "Allow This Site."  Adsense is a Google affiliate so the ads will not be pop ups or too annoying and they are likely to be relevent to your interests or at least Writing About Writing (self publishing, MFA programs, stuff like that).

I must make it absolutely clear that I am NOT ASKING FOR "BLIND" CLICKS.  This sort of "help" actually isn't helpful, and may even lead to Adsense banning me from hosting a paid site if it's done enough.  But if you turn the adblock off, you might actually see something you're interested in, and clicking on an ad you are actually interested in is never a problem.

3- Subscribe. 
Success begets success.  Any outside entity who is checking out W.A.W., whether it is a potential advertiser, a possible guest blogger, or even someone like an agent or publisher with the idea in their head that if they pair me up with a very patient editor, the shit would get real--any entity like that is going to base their assessment of W.A.W.'s potential largely on subscribers.  They will want to know how big an audience I can generate, and they will look at things like who's "liked" the W.A.W. Facebook Page or who is in the W.A.W. G+ circle or who is subscribed through RSS feeds or Blogger. If they think their carefully written guest blog is going to reach 18 people, their attitude about contributing will be a little different than if they think it's going to reach 10,000.

You don't even have to really use the feed.  You can "Like"/"+1"/Subscribe/whatever, and then immediately turn off the feed or ignore it or whatever if you aren't really interested in Following W.A.W..  The supportive part just comes in helping me get the numbers.

4- Share the articles you like on social media.  
Sharing the things you like is important if you want to keep seeing them.  No one can grow an audience if they don't have people willing to share their work with others.  The best thing you can probably do for an artist or entertainer trying to succeed independently is to say "I think you would like this!" to someone who might.

The hardest part about blogging is getting the word out.  If I share a post on social media it's all my same friends seeing it again and again.  They all secretly (and some not so secretly) hate me and want me to shut up.  Not everyone likes my style.  Not everyone gives two shits about writing.  Not everyone can maintain their composure when it's time to use their scroll wheel.  Finding people who really like the work I'm doing is tough, so helping push that process along is incredibly helpful.  You have friends I've never met.  Some of them might love what I do.  It is an absolutely free and easy way to really help W.A.W. to simply share the articles you like on Facebook, G+, Stumbleupon, and especially social media I'm not on (like Reddit or Digg) in order to help me to find the narrow niche of people who like what I'm saying and how I'm saying it.

They're out there...but I need your help to find them.

5- Click the little buttons.  A lot.
There is another "Red Queen Race" nearly as fierce as the advertising/ad blocking one that goes on between SEO and search engine.  People who try to manipulate SEO try to figure out how to trick the search engine into listing them higher.  Search engines know that listing GOOD content is absolutely key in being a good search engine, and they look for ways to filter out the crap.  (You don't see websites anymore with repeated key words in the background because Google, Yahoo, and even Bing have long sense learned how to ignore that crap.)

Google is constantly coming up with new tricks to make sure someone who's just dropping keywords into a fluff piece doesn't end up as the first result of a search.  One of the most effective ways to help an article get more traffic (by being a higher result on a search engine) is to do things like give it "Likes," "+1s" and "Thumbs Up."  If you want to help W.A.W. (or any blog you like) you might be just a little more generous with those endorsement buttons than for a normal site.  No one is going to challenge you to a pistol duel for liking something you thought was "pretty good, but not great."

6- Comment or drop me a line.  
It's a thankless job.  I make about a dollar a day on a good day.  There have been a deplorable lack of hawt groupie threesomes since ever.  Most of the time no one makes a comment unless they've got a problem with something I've written.  And half the time I get these anonymous nast-o-grams that are absolutely intended to make my cry.  It's really nice to hear some of the good stuff from time to time whether it's just an article you particularly liked, or a general appreciation of my work.'

Are there things you want to see more of? Less of? Do you want to guest blog? Do you have a suggestion? I may not incorporate every iota of feedback, but I'm always looking for input.


Remember, if you don’t want obnoxious appeal posts every couple of months, if you don't want me working two other jobs that will occasionally take priority over getting a post up on time (like on Wednesday), and if you want to see more posts, higher quality posts, and especially free fiction, helping out this blog a little is how to get all of that.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

IT is the Best Horror Novel Ever (Or is IT?)

Best Horror Novel Ever?
It, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Song of Kali: is this the proper order for the best books in the horror genre?  Vote today!

Don't forget to vote in our poll.  Everyone gets 2 (two) votes.

Oddly enough, Tommyknockers has gotten only a single vote and Pet Sematary has only gotten four.  You all were so enthusiastic about writing how terrifying those books were during the nomination process.  Now they seem like the book poll equivalent of your cousin who friended you last week on Facebook but doesn't ever check Snopes.

There are currently two tiers of votes (one in the low teens and one in the 4-6 range) that are practically too close to tell.  While there's one reader promising that he will break the poll and make Song of Kali win (which would be fun to see, as it is quite good) I will believe that when I see it.

I also am fascinated by how well classic horror has done on this poll.  In most of our other polls, classic titles have done well, but always under a chunk of contemporaries.  In this poll they're in the second and third spot and could pull out a win.  Interesting.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Did You Miss Me?

Hello everyone!  Did you miss me?
Evil Chris.
"Shocker"ing two hotties simultaneously since...
well, since last year around this time.

I'm still here.  I'm still in the basement.  I'm still working on that novel that I will publish before Chris gets the chance.  I can still hack the Writing About Writing signal for my own ends...as you can see.

And since we're coming up on NaNoWriMo, and I'm a big, huge NaNoWriMo fanboy, you can expect to be hearing a lot more of me in the next couple of months.

I'm sure stupid Chris and his stupid staff are going to try to convince you that NaNo is some unwise event that can do more harm than good if you're not careful and blah blah blah yakidy shmackidy.  But, like last year, I'll be here to do damage control.

Chris tried to post something meaningful, but I hacked the signal to make sure you all know I'm here in all my evil glory.  I wear black.  I hate babies. I never help old ladies. I use the shocker without prior consent. I take the last cookie even if I can tell you want it.

And I love NaNoWriMo.

If being evil is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Monday, October 7, 2013

An Introvert's Birthday

This cake is just not ON FIRE enough to represent my age.
Photo by Omar Wazir
The only problem with the idea of me doing more "personal updates" is that, generally speaking, nothing fucking happens in my life.  I go to work.  I teach kids and second language speakers how to fix comma splices.  I clean the house.  I read. I write.  That's about it most of the time, and as much as I complain about the deplorable lack of group sex, that breakneck pace is really by design.  My life is fairly boring on the outside; all the good shit is going on between my ears.  I'm pretty sure you guys don't want to know how much I'm enjoying the next Vorkorsigan novel that I picked up because of last year's best series poll or that I have a nifty idea for a spiritual journey story about Burning Man.  So I'm sitting here and even though I had a birthday on September 29th--my thirty coughcoughth--I feel like I don't have that much to share.

I mean there was a professional massage paid for by Supportive Girlfriend.  (Actually, I visited the friend/masseuse that I mentioned in this post at his uberswanktacular new digs at Burke Williams) And there was Dim Sum.  And there were peeps who are awesome but I don't see nearly enough and discussions of science fiction.  And there were leg accentuating ensembles worn for my benefit that put me in the awkward position of balancing "guilt free license to look" against the horror of the pig that lies just beneath the surface of my calm veneer.  There was hollandaise.  (Though there was not hollandaise Dim Sum.  Hmmmmm.....) And I managed to go over 1000 "likes" on my Facebook page. And pretty much unless I'd gotten a knock at my door on Sunday night from two blisteringly cute groupies wearing knee pads and lobster bibs, it was about as good as it could be.

But I didn't once catch my reflection in the mirror and think, "By God, something has to change!" or have a poignant moment with my ex-wife that reminds me how fleeting love can be.  I didn't stand atop a man made structure of great height and vow to be better.  Other than some totally not-surprising news about Princess Mononoke's kidney function (first stage of kidney disease) that kind of kicked me in the crotch despite knowing it was coming since last year, it was from a life-development point of view, a week much like any other.

Just with more steam pork buns.

So when, as is often the case, I face Mondays down without much in the way of exciting events or life-trajectory-altering thoughts, we may have to settle for some simple introductions.  Don't worry, though. Whether it's my past affiliation with radical Islam, my struggle with addiction, or my "alternate lifestyle," I'm just full of surprises.  Of course in today's case, I'll be doing an introduction post about why I don't have enough going on, which directly facilitates the need for introduction posts.

The reason two meals out and a massage sounds pretty whirlwind to me is that, like most writers, I don't get out much.

Writers each have different reasons for their particular brand of cave-ridden statuses, so I'm going to try to avoid generalizations like "all writers are awkward around people" or typical bullshit like that.  Some writers take their uncanny perception of people around them and use that knowledge to navigate the slipstream of social interactions with a preternatural grace.  Some are extroverts torn by their love of a solitary activity and their love of being around people.  Some writers even haunt literary events and manage to turn them into a robust social life.  But most writers can give an agoraphobe a run for their money when it comes to their social lives.

In my case it's only partially true that I'm almost always writing in my free time.  I am also a huge introvert.

Huge.

Bigger than most people--even people in my life--can quite wrap their heads around.

If you've hung around on Facebook, you probably have seen various introvert articles: "Caring for your Introvert."  "Ten things people don't understand about introverts."  "I Don't Actually Hate You, Brah--I'm Just an Introvert." And of course "Don't Hold Me Responsible For My Lack of Social Skills Since I'm an Introvert."  There have actually been so many that extroverts have gotten jealous and put out a couple about how--guess what--they are sometimes awkward too, and there have even a few dismissing the whole continuum for just people being human because you know if you're average, then everyone else must be making their extremes up.

Once we had our own memes,
we had basically arrived.
Projection is so awesome.

But I'm actually glad that all those articles are out there--even the cranky ones that insist that all extroverts an introverts just need to get over themselves and their speshul snowflake labels.  At least all the kerfuffle means that people are more likely to understand.  Five years ago and certainly ten, most people would have thought that introvert was synonymous with shy.  They would have tried to break me out of "my shell."  And folks in my life would casually wonder if I was some knife collecting misanthrope or something.  Though I can be shy around new people, I actually really like the company of peeps--in small, measured doses.  (I LOVE small groups!!)  I've been happy to see introverts get some air time because the visibility means folks don't try to change me as often, and when I make a choice between being social and then being tapped for a few hours and using that energy to do some writing, they are less likely to take it personally.

Social interaction drains me.  It invigorates some people, and many many others can take it to a point and then they've had enough, but for me I'm very far along the continuum, and I always have been.  A couple of hours with people in a social context and I feel like I need to curl up with a good book, a cat, and maybe a nap for the rest of the day.  (I knew I was going to be hitting this life thing from a strange angle the day my step-dad bought us McDonalds and rented Robocop for Thanksgiving dinner; I thought that was so awesome, I asked every year if we could do it again.)  I am most comfortable at home--letting my mind skim across the paper of some adventure in my head.  My batteries recharge when I am alone--or with peeps so close that I can be completely myself with them.

Socially drained isn't just a compartmentalized social axis with me, though.  If I'm worn out from being around too many people, I'm not likely to be able to fire up my creative engines and write either.  I just want to....recover.  So, for me, every social interaction is a trade off with potentially productive writing time.  And that means I tend to choose to stay in and get some work done a lot.

So that's why my birthday would bore most people to tears, even though I thought it was a little too much.  And that's why there are going to be a lot of weeks where personal updates here might have the feel of, "Nothing happened this week.  Uh....have I...um....mentioned that I used to juggle geese?"


Saturday, October 5, 2013

September's Best (Also August's Best)

So when I went to do September's top three articles, I noticed that August's had not been done either. I must have just missed it with everything else that was going on with end of summer madness.

September is the first real month I get to call officially A.C.G. (After Creepy Guy).  Numbers were way, way down from July, even down from August, but they did manage to creep up over last June.  I won't know until the end of October if I can expect them to go down a little more before they stabilize, but my best month ever B.C.G. (I'll let you figure that one out) was 22k, and that was a little inflated, so I wouldn't be surprised if it dipped a little more before it was done.

Still, I never know when some spaghetti is going to stick to the wall.  Right this second an article I wrote months ago about hating a viral Facebook meme seems to be getting some attention from Facebook groups of English teachers, so I never know what's going to get traffic.

It's a little like the ride at Six Flags that proves you're a big kid.
Here are the articles that will be going into The Year's Best (which should be getting a design update soon, so watch for that).

SEPTEMBER

Personalish Update: A Writer's Time A baby shower for my roommate leads to some tough decisions.
Fifteen Things Not to Do to Writers (Unless You Want Them to Hate You) Part 1 of 3
Mailbox: Bits and Pieces Several shorter questions that have accumulated over time.

AUGUST (Caveat to August's best--two of the four Mailbox articles responding to the Creepy Guy feedback were actually the highest number, but I have included them with Creepy guy and July)

The Worst (Best) Advice About How to Be a Famous Writer The evil hacker blogger strikes again.
Mailbox: Help I'm Addicted to Writing It didn't make "the best of the mailbox" but it was pretty good for August
Meet Indem Niffy and some Cray Cray Numbers My muse has a companion now!

 Plans for October

I'm hoping to get another big chunk of Demon's Rubicon finished.  Plus a glossary entry. Twizzlefizzlepop has a book he's dying to pimp.  Of course, the last of the 15 things not to do to writers will be up in the next few days.  And if I can stop getting distracted by the wonderful books suggested by all of you for our polls, I want to re-read Bird by Bird to do a review since product reviews are a little thin around here.  All this, plus a little bit of design adjustment and our Best Horror Novel poll coming in October!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Mailbox: How Am I About Writing Every Day?

Am I as good as I tell others to be when it comes to writing every day?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  Don't be afraid to wonder if I practice what I preach.]     

Shelly asks:

How are you about writing every day.  I've been on your Facebook Page for this blog [Author's note: I added the hyperlink there], and it seems like you often don't post things when you're sick or when something comes up in your life.  This seems sort of contrary to your own advice about writing no matter what.  It seems like you don't practice what you preach.

My reply:

First of all, Shelly, I must ask forgiveness from you before we proceed.  I must ask this because I am incapable, due to the wiring in my brain and the television options available during key formative years of my "what's cool" development, of NOT imagining you as the sister of Stan from South Park with the head gear and the crush on Skylar.  I am so sorry.  In fact, if you've got a good sense of humor, don't take your self too seriously, and can get over being annoyed about this, I recommend reading your own question in that voice--slurring all your S's like you're The Spleen from Mystery Men.

Fucking hilarious.

Okay, now that I have that unfortunate (but unavoidable) business out of the way, I'll answer your question.

If this is intended as a "GOTCHA!" moment to expose the rank hypocrisy of my process habits, I'm afraid I'm going to end up being pretty disappointing.  I don't really even take a seventh day off anymore.

Do I write every day?  Mostly. You can look....well, not to put to fine a point on it, but look around. Click a couple of links. Hit "pervious entry" down at the bottom of the page. I hope it's pretty clear that I write most days. Unless you think that I ferret away somewhere and write an entire week's worth of entries in a single crazed twenty-hour session or that prior to starting a blog I had two thousand or so pages of articles tucked away, it's pretty clear that this is an ongoing and regular effort.

In fact, one of the reasons I like blogging as a medium for this message about writing is that you can actually see many of the things I talk about.  My lessons about how to be a writer exist in real time for those willing to dig through old entries. Look at the first entries: it's easy to notice how my voice has changed over time, and even how much I've improved over the writing I was doing back then.  It's easy to see how I've learned to write more for my audience and less self-indulgently.  You can watch me get a hard on for a particular word or turn of phrase for a few weeks and then get over it.  You can see these processes take time and not just be something I intuit because I'm some mad genius.  You can see me make mistakes.

Also, you can tell when I was sick or out of it, and how I went through the motions. Not every article is my best. Some kind of look like I phoned it in. And others just sort of suck. But you can also tell how when I suit up and show up every day to write here, no shortage of awesome ideas jump into my lap.  If I stopped getting inspiration TODAY, I would be able to run this single-subject blog (at five entries a week) for about two years before I ran out of topics.  I am a living embodiment of how working every day creates inspiration.  I'm literally blogging about ONE topic, and I have more ideas hitting me when I sit down to write than I could ever write out fully.

The days I don't write even a couple of pages, I am usually so sick that my brains are kind of boiling inside their cerebrospinal fluid.  That or the idea of sitting up even enough to write in bed holds a certain kind of horror to my aching muscles and insta-cough reaction to any movement.  I also discovered a little over a year ago that if I go through a triple root canal in a single day (including hydrocodone afterwards), I'm probably not going to end up writing much after that.

Go figure.

However, there is one distinction that seems to be important to the question you asked.  There are a lot of days where I write but I don't necessarily blog.  Blogging takes brain power.  It takes time.  It takes energy.  And frankly, it isn't my day job (mores the pity).  I have to stick to the topic in a blog.  I have to pick out some copyright appropriate pictures or no one will click the link. I have to revise my posts before I post them (or else they suck).  I have to format for web content. I have to try to copyedit them (and fail miserably).  I have to get them up in a timely manner.

It's work!  

And like any other job, sometimes I call in.

If I'm sick....  If my other jobs are overwhelming....  If I get up clean house for two hours, go to teach kids who flunked out of high school the difference between coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs for six hours, come home and have to clean the cat boxes before I put the trash on the curb.... Well, the chances I'm going to have my shit together enough to post (something more than "All work and no threesome makes Chris a dull boy..." five hundred times) are pretty slim.

I'll need to make a lot more from this gig before I start treating this like I can't take a day off of once in a while.  For some reason, three dollars a day just doesn't cut it.

But writing--the sort of writing that doesn't have to be taken as seriously....  I do that to blow off steam. I'll pop off a half hour of free writing just to take the edge off a stressful day, or write a couple of pages on some of the fiction I'm currently noodling with the same unwinding impetus with which many people play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.

Cures colds pretty much instantly.
Takes 3 viewings to cure influenza.
Cures chlamydia, but only when combined with antibiotics.
Does not cure mitro-valve prolapse.
Verdict currently out on blurry vision patches.
More research needed.  For science.
My ex wife used to do a screening of The Princess Bride every time she got sick.  It was the mental equivalent of her chicken soup, and I even heard her (more than once) claim that the reason she wasn't better yet was because she had yet to watch The Princess Bride.  That's how I feel about writing most days--even when I'm stressed or sick.  I do it to feel centered.  It is my Princess Bride and my chicken soup.  But the writing I do during those times is not the deadline-aware, quality-conscious, topic-focused writing I do for Writing About Writing.

That writing is for me.  And while an echo of it might end up in a book I publish one day, I mostly do it because not doing it makes me feel even worse.

But yes, with very, very few exceptions, I do it every single day.