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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Somehow I missed out on the fact that they’d been developing a Lovecraft musical. To make up for this, I’ve been listening to the score. This is the first track on youtube, and it’s absolutely brilliant. I suppose it’s even better for people who are Lovecraft fans already, but it’s still pretty enjoyable for the general public, provided that you’ve seen A Fiddler on the Roof, the original play that this one parodies. I don’t care if they’ve only ever had a handful of successful productions of this show, I want to see it. Hell, if I had the money, I’d produce it. Much like Spamalot, this is one severely underrated musical that needs better exposure.

Lovecraft needs more exposure, frankly. I mean, kids today know Edgar Allan Poe from their high school English classes, if not from earlier. They see Stephen King (of whom I am a huge fan: 11/22/63 is on hold for me at the library, and I absolutely cannot wait for Dr. Sleep and The Wind Through the Keyhole) or Dean Koontz or the others on the shelves at bookstores, and many of them don’t realize that there was someone (or some thing…) filling in those years between Poe and today. Lovecraft’s fiction is deep, disturbing, and profound, and I can’t read enough of it. Just as entertaining are things like Neil Gaiman’s short, “I, Cthulhu.” Check it out on Tor’s website, here. I just wish that I’d had a formal introduction to Lovecraft the way I was introduced to classic literature. Some things just go unappreciated for far too long. Maybe, if ever I slip off of the pier and lose what’s left of my sanity (to the Dark Lord Cthulhu or otherwise) and become a teacher, I’ll try to sneak something like “The Color Out of Space” into my curriculum. Or maybe I’ll just avoid teaching. It could be dangerous and hazardous to young, impressionable minds. Damn kids might actually learn something, and we certainly can’t have any of that.

There’s all kinds of great things to read out there, and there are great people making things happen for people to help them get access to the things that they’re needing or wanting to read, whether it’s a copy of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon collection or the latest political biographies. The people of the Occupy Wall Street Library are those kind of people, and they need your help. Check out their wordpress page and see what you, as a writer or a reader or a lover of books or of democracy or of protests can do to help them out. Send them your donations, your books, your poetry, or even just a letter saying “Hey, OWS Library, we totally appreciate that you’re trying your best to help make this whole shitty situation a little less shitty by providing books and whatnot to all the people here.” Maybe you can send them a spare Lovecraft collection. In his house in Wall Street, dread Cthulhu waits dreaming of equality and fairness and an end to the bullshit that is politics. Right? We can only hope, and hang on, like a shoggoth on the roof.

Today, I started my first shift as a substitute at one of the smaller branches within the library system here in town. I don’t know if it was just the change in the size of the facility, the massive amount of snow on the ground, or some combination of the two, but it’s been a wonderful change of pace. The work is also a lot more along the lines of my old job at my university’s library. Unlike my current job, I’m not one of twenty or so staff members at work. Tonight, I’m one of three. Everyone does a wider variety of tasks. It reminds me very much of the library in my hometown, which was built in a converted house. There’s something very powerful about the atmosphere of an area of such concentrated imagination and knowledge and creativity.

All libraries and bookstores have this effect to some degree, but I’ve found that the smaller the location, the more powerful it becomes. This would account for my love of bookmobiles… I mean, honestly, a library that comes to you? Brilliant. Almost as good as fresh Guinness draught in a bottle. I suppose I could get the same impact with all the books I’ve got in a storage unit at the moment, but they’re all in boxes, so it’s not quite the same. Conversely, take the Library of Congress. I can’t imagine a more overwhelming building full of books in existence, but when I think about all of those books being condensed into a building that had enough room for just the books and none of the soaring ceilings and wide open areas, well…

I’ve planned a dream home around the presence of a personal library. While I am absolutely of the opinion that books should be shared and available to everyone who wants to read them, I’m a little bit protective when it comes to my own collection. I mean, after I discovered how mind-blowingly awesome Watchmen was (Alan Moore is a genius, if not the wizard that he claims), I went out and promptly bought a second copy so that I could lend that one out to my friends. My original copy stays on my shelf. I did the same thing with Salamandastron (still my favorite of the Redwall series) in the fifth grade after I met Brian Jacques. Despite being a mass-market paperback, it’s signed, and so it has a reserved place of honor, while my new-old hardcover (God bless used bookstores) is my reading copy. OCD? Maybe a little. I never claimed not to be. After all, I want to be able to pass many of them on to whatever children or nieces or nephews I may have. I’d like to take good care of them while they’re still in my possession. To me, a good book is worth its weight in gold.

I love me my physical books. I’m not afraid to retread old anti-eReader ground here. I can’t say it often enough. Yes, I support digitization of physical media for archival backup. If a physical copy cannot survive, then at least a digital copy will be available. Maybe then, in the future, someone could reprint a physical copy from the backup. This is just practical. Do I support a complete conversion to digital? No. Flat out. No. You cannot beat a physical book. I’ll happily listen to any defenses of digital readers. After all, I survived for ten months by convincing people of how great they are. If Barnes & Noble ever hires me, I’ll go right back to it. They’re nice, but they’re not right for me.

That much being said, I’ve got my notebook and pen handy. I’m going to write a little more before diving back into A Wizard of Earthsea.

This one’s kind of a complicated subject, and was inspired by the latest Penny Arcade comic. How many of you feel that what you do as a writer actually counts as art?

I say yes. I know that some people would disagree with me.  However, I feel that a well written story or poem, regardless of the formal training  behind it, can be just as beautiful as some works of art, and far more impressive than others. I’ve read some pieces that, while incredibly well-written, strongly structured, and clearly organized, did absolutely nothing for me in terms of evoking an emotional response, and I’d consider them almost trash. Are those stories art? Much like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder (along with antimagic, disintegrate, etc., but I digress).

I know that my feelings on certain pieces change based on my age, my own life experiences, and my state of mind when I am reading it. Therefore, there are some books that I pick up on a regular basis. My love for Tolkien remains undiminished throughout the years, no matter how many times I’ve read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Other authors, I attempted to read in junior high or high school, and were totally dismissed at the time. Later on, particularly thanks to my degree, I would read them again, and I found that my tastes had changed. For example, let’s take Willa Cather. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher taught Cather as a standard in his curriculum because she was his favorite author, and had lived where he had lived. That year, I attempted to read Death Comes for the Archbishop. I found it painful and dull, and questioned the relevance of Cather’s work.

Four years later, now a third-year English major (in part thanks to the influence of said English teacher), I read Willa Cather again, this time tackling The Professor’s House. With far more reading experience under my belt, I dove headlong into the book, and I finally found myself enjoying Cather’s prose. This time, I was fascinated by her characters, and eventually took it upon myself to revisit Death Comes for the Archbishop. Now that I was more accustomed to her writing, I realized that I really liked Cather, and was happy to add her to my list of favorite authors. I went through a nearly identical process when I first encountered Stephen King. Granted, I started with Desperation. Also granted, I was in fifth grade. Still, King’s writing style didn’t appeal to me. A couple of years later, however, I picked up The Green Mile, having seen the film version. It was, I guess, a more mild story, but it allowed me to adapt my mind to King’s writing form and characterization. Now I find myself hard-pressed to find King books that I’ve not read.

Based on my first impressions of both of these authors, I wouldn’t have called either of them artists. Skilled at their craft, yes, but neither Cather nor King would have kept my attention long enough for me to care. For whatever reason, I decided to give them another look, and that’s when I found the art. Now I feel that I’m able to see it far more often. In my own work, I’m trying to find the balance between craft and art. There’s only so far that formal training and technical approaches can take you. If you’re not putting feeling into what you’re writing, then you might as well quit now.

 

It’s D&D character backstory time again, folks, which means that I’m too busy/lazy to actually type up something completely new/original for your reading pleasure today (read: Skyward Sword is eating my life now that NaNo is over).

This one is for my soulknife, Alexi.

Forty years ago, there was a small group of adventurers who roamed the world of Taesos, combing dungeons and caverns and castles in far countries to gain the knowledge of ancient civilizations. A man named Dorn was one of their number, and upon his return to his home city of Arnes he married and founded a small private university in the large manor that he built with funds dicovered in his travels. It was here that he began to pore over the information that he and his friends had found. Dorn began to study alongside his students and found that with the right training, anyone could accomplish astounding deeds. His school quickly became known as a prestigious adventuring academy.

Not long after, Dorn and his wife welcomed the birth of twin sons, Jack and Alexi. In an unpleasant turn of events of which not even Dorn knows the truth, Dorn’s wife fled Arnes with Dorn’s best friend, Georg, and with Alexi, the elder twin. Dorn was left to raise Jack alone.

Alexi’s childhood was far from dull, however. Living with a wizard honed his mind. He had not the sheer varied talent of his twin, but his mind was unique in that it allowed him to shape weapons out of pure mental energy. This was the latent power that Georg, in reality a powerful illusionist, had sensed within Alexi, leading to the kidnapping.

When he reached the age of eighteen, he set forth with Georg to do battle with his long-lost brother, Jack. After searching for many months, Jack had finally stumbled upon his brother’s trail, deep in the mountains on Nyord’Wrend. Georg and Alexi slaughtered all of Jack’s companions and, in what may have been a brief moment of compassion for his brother, Alexi utilized one of Georg’s own inventions to teleport Jack out of Georg’s hands and back to Nirruna, wiping his memories of Alexi’s hiding place in the process.

Alexi remains a loyal servant to the illusions of Georg, fighting alongside others who have submitted to the will of the wizard. He now journeys across the world looking for potential new allies, making a bold statement of power with each manifestation of his mind blade. Perhaps someday he will encounter his brother, Jack, again, and be able to regain his lost years with his true family.

Let’s face it. Not everyone can be as awesome as Geoff.

Seriously. Awesome.

I was properly introduced to Geoff via one of my professors at UCCS, a man named Tom Napierkowski. This was during my junior year, and one of the rare occasions when V and I actually had a class together. I learned a lot about classic literature from this class, and I started to learn more and more about the authors that I was studying. Now this was hardly the first literature class that I had taken where my professor was highly knowledgeable and very passionate about their particular subject. After all, it’s hard to argue with the people who wrote this or this. Still, my class on Geoff (for that is how Dr. Napierkowski will always refer to the man) was one of the first where I realized that I could understand my professor’s desire to know everything there was to know about a writer.

It’s not just that Chaucer wrote fantastic pieces of fiction. The Canterbury Tales are still read and retold, over six hundred years later. It’s that Chaucer wrote incredible characters. The man understood other people. Want to get a handle on an ensemble cast centuries before Stephen King did it? Read Chaucer. Every one of the characters on the pilgrimage to Canterbury has a story to tell, and each one of their tales reveals a little bit about who they are and what they believe. Whether it’s the noble Knight or the foul-mouthed, but funny Miller, Chaucer put in something for readers of every class and standing. He understood his audience, and he crafted something for everyone, and did it in a believable fashion. If that’s not a sign of an awesome writer, I don’t know what is.

Unlike Dr. Napierkowski and V, I’ve not had the opportunity to swing by Westminster Abbey for a chat with Geoff. I’d love to find myself in Poet’s Corner, and just think about the great people that have been buried there since he was. That’s going to have to wait a little while, I’m afraid. For now, I’ll stow that goal away with all the rest, and try to do some writing that will likely pale in comparison. I had what I hope will be a great idea for a short fiction piece the other day, so I’ll be spending my free time today (so, you know, today) working on that and a load of job applications. If it turns out to be a long enough piece (1000 words or so), I may submit it to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, since I’m still waiting to see what Sonia‘s going to throw my way this month. No rush, Sonia, seriously.

As for my reading, well, I decided to go with Larry Niven’s Ringworld to start, and snagged a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for the next reread, since those happened to be the two best titles in their respective shelves at the local branch of the public library. Halo fans take note. Ringworld is a huge inspiration to the titular Halo devices. Potential science issues (which have been addressed by Niven) aside, it’s shaping up to be a great sci-fi read. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, back in the days when I was first discovering things like Dune and Gateway and 2001.

Winter has come to Westeros. I’m done with A Dance With Dragons. Now it’s time to work on some short fiction pieces that I’ve been playing around with in my head for the last couple of months, and move on to more books. Any recommendations? I’ve tried using this, but it’s only so-so when you read so much… Next up on my list are some of the following:

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (finishing the trilogy at last)

Brisingr and Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (see above)

The Black Company by Glen Cook

Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe (halfway done)

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (rereading)

1984 by George Orwell (rereading)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (rereading)

The Shining by Stephen King (rereading in advance of the release of the sequel, Dr. Sleep)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges

There’s also this. It’s a new book called White Dove, and if the author’s name seems familiar, there’s a very good reason for that. It’s written by my fifteen year old cousin. I’m damn proud of her, albeit a little jealous that she got published before me. 😀

Winter has come to Colorado too. We’re finally getting some snow that’s staying on the ground for more than a few hours! This is kind of a big deal, people.

In winter, Colorado is basically Hoth

It doesn’t really actually mean all that much to me right now. I’m off of work for the next few days, unless I get called in to substitute for someone. In the meantime, I really should be looking for additional work, but there are so many things that demand for me to read them…seriously, it’s like an addiction. I can’t stop reading! That, and drinking Mountain Dew. And hopefully writing… Speaking of which, writing, that is, not Mountain Dew (though I realized the store had ten different varieties of Mountain Dew the other day, twelve if you counted the two diet flavors…), I found something that could come in very handy. If nothing else, I can use this for when I get into an argument with some gorbellied, motley-minded clack-dish:

For a more sophisticated way of saying "Your mother's a whore."

Goodnight!

Yes, it’s nearly 6 AM. Yes, I’ve been primarily subsisting on caffeine and alcohol today. How is this different from any other day? I’m at that perfect balance of booze-induced exhaustion and caffeine-induced insomnia that means that I’m ready to write. Here’s some updates, dear readers.

1.) NaNoWriMo. I tried and died this year, but I managed to get upwards of 30,000 words in the first three weeks of the project. I’m pretty damn proud of myself. I’ve proven to myself that I’m actually capable of sitting down and putting something cohesive and coherent together, outside of this blog. I’m quite pleased. In addition to said pride, I’ve gotten a damn good start on my first big writing project. The 30,000 words I wrote last month will serve as a springboard for me. I’m definitely going to try NaNo again next year. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish anything within the thirty day time frame, but I will find ideas and hope there. The motivation it provided was a much needed kick start. Thank you to everyone who supported me during November. I’ll keep trying. Arsus and Rime and the others are far too deeply buried inside my brain to let them go completely.

2.) The job hunt continues. Naturally. I’ve decided to try to branch out a little bit, and start applying for some jobs in Denver and the surrounding area as well. I would hate to leave the Springs, but at the same time, it’s hard  to limit myself when I know that there could be better possibilities elsewhere. I’m not planning to leave town any time soon, though. I would find it very hard to leave all of my friends behind (and, by the way, I feel closer to most of the people that I met in college than to any of the people I knew from preschool through senior year of high school, and I’m not sure if this is weird or not). I’m not trying to be picky about jobs. Especially not after reading this earlier today (or was it late yesterday?). Speaking of cracked.com, I’m considering applying as a writer there. Supposedly, if you can write comedy, you can write anything. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I guess I’ll never know until I try. I’m sort of connected to a writing/editing/reading job now, but at the moment, it’s pro-bono, so it’s strictly for experience. It’s hard to remain focused on a job like that when it’s web-based and not paying off immediately. I’d say that’s a pretty rough choice for someone in a writing field, because it’s difficult enough trying to get a job that’s not just a crappy retail or customer service gig. Been there, done/doing that. I don’t know that I can justify NOT doing it, though, given my financial outlook at the moment. Conundrum? Maybe, but probably not in the long run.

3.) Christmas is coming. I love Christmas. It’s not my favorite holiday ever, but it’s still a pretty darn good one. I’m still not certain exactly what I’ll be doing in three weeks, but I’ll be with people who care about me, no matter what, and I hope that all of you are able to do the same. It’s a good time of year to be around family. I have a tendency to think that I’m going to be miserable when I go home, even though it’s rarely actually true. I can put up with my mother being upset that my hair is still long, and my ears are still pierced, and I’m not nearly as religious as I was ten years ago. I enjoy being around my relatives, but I’m also grateful that I don’t live in my hometown anymore. For the most part, it’s your typical small rural town full of small-minded people. Yes, that’s kind of an unfair blanket statement. There are plenty of people there who are more open-minded than others, but they’re few and far between in a town that boasts so many churches per-capita that I could attend a different one each month for a year and still not have completed the rounds. So naturally, I moved to Colorado Springs, right? Hahaha. Oh, local humor, how you amuse me in the early hours of the morning. I digress. I still like to see my family, and I know that they like to see me, and that my visits are far too infrequent and too short as far as they’re concerned. I’m happy with this. It’s best not to disillusion them just yet. 😀

4.) Aspirations are still at an all-time high. I’m optimistic. I’ve sent a short story in to another magazine, and I’m trying to write a couple more. The next one will probably weigh in a bit heftier than the one I’m showing people now, but we’ll see what happens. When inspiration strikes, you have to use it. I found this yesterday, and had to share it with you.

Seriously. That thing is awesome. That’s outside the main public library in Cincinnati. Who would have ever thought that I would have reason to go to Ohio? I guess I do now. I would love to see this thing in person. I’m fairly certain that the photos do not do it justice. I could spend the rest of my life wandering around old bookstores and libraries.

I’ve found some other awesome stuff as well. Like vintage clothing? Love old books as much as I do? Check out Out of Print Clothing. These people make some of the most amazing shirts I’ve ever seen, decorated with classic literary covers. And for those of you who like to read other people’s writing on other people’s books, check this out.

I think that just about wraps things up for now. I need to try to catch a few hours of sleep so that I can play more Zelda tonight, or finish A Dance With Dragons in the next day or so. Martin’s writing is still just as strong in this book, and I can’t wait to see how it wraps up and leaves things for The Winds of Winter. Here’s to hoping that we don’t have to wait six years. Peace!