Monday, April 30, 2012

Who's a good writer?

Here's a post that's probably been pontificated on at least a million times.
What makes a good writer?
Ok, you have to be able to formulate a good sentence. You have to be decent with grammer and you should be able to spell a little.
It's more than that though, right? I know plent of folks who can formulate the perfect sentence, grammatically, but that doesn't make them a storyteller. I guess it should also be noted that many of my favorite storyteller's play pretty fast and loose with the grammatical rules anyway.
So what is it?
Here's some background. Got another rejection today, this one from an agent. Rejection letters are something that happen pretty regulary. I write to please myself. Tim (Green) sees it the same way. Not looking to impress anyone too much, however, we love some of these characters and stories and would like to share them. It's not about money, fame, celebrity or any of that. We want to share our stories with like-minded people and maybe entertain them a bit in the process.
So we write, we publish and sometimes we submit. Why not try some traditional avenues as well, right?
Sometimes we get accepted and sometimes we get rejected. This happens to the best of them. Tim Burton gets ideas rejected all the time. So it shouldn't bother me...right?
Well, it does bother me. I don't know why. I go through stages from "to hell with you, . You wouldn't know a good story if it crawled up your pants leg and bit your dangling participle!" al the way to "We are the suckiest writers ever and should just go bag groceries for a living so our lack of creative energy won't poison the rest of society." And finally, I come back to "Soldier on, Bastards" (to borrow a phrase from Paddy and The Rats).
So what makes a good writer? Can it be "ensured" that you will be good? Lots of folks come out of programs granting a Masters in Creative Writing. Are all of those people then Masters? Do they get published to wide acclaim (I don't think so, but I have no data). Here are some facts on my favorites authors.
I know Stephen King has a degree in English. JK Rowling majored in French and The Classics. Joe Abercrombie studied Psychology. Terry Brooks majored in English Literature and has an advanced degree in Law. George RR Martin - degree in journalism. Robert Jordan had a degree in Physics.
J.R.R. Tolkien was, primarily a linguist. Robert Howard was basically a well-read, self taught prolific writer who piled up rejection slips for years before becoming successul. Fritz Leiber studied philosophy, but was a Shakespearan actor from the time he was a child, thanks to his parent's acting troupe.
Brian Jacques attended the school of Hard Knocks basically. No formal training as a writer, but lots of life experiences to draw from. R.A. Salvatore majored in Communications and English. William King, while his bio is vague, seemed to gain his writing expertise through work as a game designer. Nathan Long seems to have developed by trial and error, becoming first a screen writer before moving into novel. Ed Greenwood is a librarian who has been writing stories since he was a child. D&D gave him the outlet for a world he had conceived years earlier. D.A. Adams has a Masters in Writing but will be the first person to tell you that he thinks it is not necessary for writers. Mary Robinette Kowal (my cousin by the way...I'm a shameless namedropper) is a legendary puppeteer (like works for Jim Henson productions) and a voice actor (actress?) who also happens to be a kick ass writer.
So what do these folks have in common? Creativity, sure. Great storytelling ability, obviously. But what makes one better than the other and is there a path one could set out on, today, to end up at the same place as this list of folks. Some richer than others (King, Rowling), some with more work under their belt (Jacques) but all prolific, well-loved storytellers with books deemed "acceptable".
Not all are flawless at grammar. Not all have the credentials of a great education in writing.
I suspect they just had a story to tell, so they wrote it. Then they submitted it, again, and again and again. In some cases, it might have been accepted on the first try and gotten a huge advance. In other cases, it might have taken so long it seemed like a fools errand. But they kept going. Of course there are persistent people who feel like success continues to elude them.
So what's they key? I don't know. I don't have it. I suspect a lot of these folks don't know what it is either. I am sure in many cases they know what it isn't.
Puzzling. Felt cathartic to write about though.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Genre Fiction (it's what I am all about)

Discovered a great post today on Genre Fiction as art! This is near and dear to my heart (since I am all about genre fiction). Then again, maybe art is not what I'm after in the strictest sense. I think GGE considers itself more of an entertainer, but art can show up in the strangest places I suppose. Read the article and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I'm not sure what's so bad about "derivative" fantasy worlds. I guess what I write is "derivative". See, I was really excited a few days ago, I saw an editor who sounded like someone I would love to work with, but then I read that he did not fantasy worlds that were "derivative in any way".
I like derivative. I mean, I read original fantasy worlds, but sometimes it's cool to see a fireball, and elf, a dwarf, a dragon and all that jazz. Dwarfs hate elfs, magicians aren't great in combat, trolls burn, ogres are super tough but not all that smart.
I guess these are tropes of fantasy as originated by Tolkien and then perpetuated by D&D, but I enjoy them.
I am reading a D&D graphic novel and it is everything D&D was when I was a kid (IDW Publishing rocks by the way). In addition, I am playing a game called "Legend of Grimrock" and it makes me feel the same thrill I used to feel around a gaming table.
I like reading Warhammer fantasy books and I enjoy some D&D novels. I used to love Salvatore, but it got a bit repetitive, but I still recommend him to people who have never read his stuff.
So, what's so bad about derivative? Can't you tell a good story and be derivative?
When I think derivative, I think Westerns. They have all sorts of common elements, but people love them. Couldn't we do the same thing with fantasy?
I don't know, but I think I will continue being a bit derivative while applying my own touches. It works for me. I guess that's my art. We'll see where it goes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Geeked about these flicks

So, here's 7 movies I can't wait to see!

  1. The Avengers
  2. The Amazing Spiderman
  3. Men In Black 3
  4. GI Joe 2
  5. Prometheus
  6. Battleship
  7. The Dark Knight Rises

Friday, April 13, 2012

Death and Taxes

They are both unavoidable I suppose, but one is final and the other means you are still kicking. You are still in the bout and you still have a chance to be whatever it is you are meant to be.
I paid GGE's annual tax burden today, which is admittedly slight because we didn't sell a darn thing in 2011.
We did, however, sow lots of seed and start making some great products that will sell.
I am actually looking forward to the day when the tax burden starts to grow.
Still, I was reminded of two things:

  1. There were a lot of plans I wanted to accomplish before this point
  2. I have, however, accomplished a lot of the goals I set out for last year (website update underway, publishing moving along, internet presence, etc)
So, here's to another year! We'll see where we are next year at this time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Legend of Grimrock

So, like most fantasy/sci-fi writers out there, I have certainly spent my share of time around a roleplaying table (and I'm happy I have - some of the best memories and closest friendships).
So, when my oldest son told me about "Legend of Grimrock", I immediately thought "Dungeon Crawl"! Cool!
Basically, four adventurers are sentenced to death, but their death sentence is commuted...if they can survive the dungeon of Grim rock. It's a towering mountain, filled with a honey comb of traps, monsters and all manner of creepiness. Why do they put prisoners there? I don't keep down the monster population? To look for treasures so the Empire can steal them back when the adventurers emerge? Doesn't matter. The fun part is, you make up four characters and go in and kick some ass.
Personally, I will be making up four of the main characters from my own novel "Return To Glory". I know those rascals so well it will be fun to run through the dungeons with them.
Wait? "Return To Glory" is about "The Seven Companions! Who gets left out?"
Well, there are no dwarfs in Legend of Grimrock so Merrick can't go. There actually aren't elves either but I can look past that. There are no priests so no healers.
For me, it will be

  • Roegr (warrior - there aren't Rangers in the game, but I will pump up his archery)
  • Jared (mage)
  • Kildar (rogue)
  • Feral (warrior)
We'll see how they do. who does that leave out?
  • Alexandra (warrior) - if my initial party dies, she'll lead a group to save them
  • Gideon (warrior) - Roegr's protege
  • Merrick (warrior) - there aren't any dwarfs so he won't show up unless there is an expansion.
In any event, nothing like a six pack of brew and a dungeon crawl with my favorite characters. I wish it were around the table with my friends, but this will prove fun nonetheless!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another hyperproductive day

What did I get done today? I did work out and edited one chapter. Other than that...I read.

Let me explain. I read several books at one time. Right now I was reading like 5 at once and I jump back and forth like changing the channels on the TV.

Then, all at once, I finish several books. Today, I finished:

  • Tough Sh*t - Kevin Smith
  • The Art of NonConformity - Chris Guillebeau
  • Unlimited Power - Anthony Robbins
  • I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell - Tucker Max
All served to be extremely inspirational, expecially Chris Guillebeau's and Kevin Smith's. I immediately when and added Kevin Smith's SModcast to my favorites and have been listening to it. It's not great, but it's good and right now, that's good enough!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 2 of hyperproductivity

Took a slight hit to the hyperproductivity today. I was to pick my son up at Logan airport at 5:00, so I arrived at 4:15 with my other two kiddos in tow. My wife called to let me know she was wrong, it wasn't 5:00, it was 6:00. No big deal.

Then she called back...

James missed his flight from Spring Breaking in NC. He would now be arriving at 9:00 pm....what? 4.5 hours in Logan?

What to do? We went to the Borders books, we bought books, we went to Kidport (playground), we shopped at Brookstone, we went to the sports bar. I read, they played, they played on Ipads...we made the best of it.

Here is a pic of me making the best of it.

Trying to at least move my creativity forward, I bought this book by Kevin Smith and read over half of it in the airport. It's really good! And pretty inspirational. I recently read "Unlimited Power" by Tony Robbins. There is some crap in Unlimited Power, but there is some gold as well. One piece of gold is that we should emulate people who have done what we would like to do. Based on that, I started reading a biography of Walt Disney. When I saw one of Kevin Smith, an autobiography no less, it seemed perfect. Here is an overweight comic nerd with a love of movies...much like yours truly!

So, what did I accomplished today? I did my workout. I managed to get Jamie home from Logan. I did edit some in Seeds of Vyldur. I was not perfect on my diet (reference the picture above). I did, however, have a memorable day at Logan with my kiddos.
Here's a pic of the kiddos at the airport

So, on to day 3!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First day of hyper productivity

Well, my first day of hyper-productivity is almost in the books. Here's how I did:

  • Got the kids everywhere they needed to be
  • Ran 5 miles
  • Stayed on my diet
  • Edited "Seeds of Vyldur"
  • Made serious progress on selecting a cover image for SOV
  • I am about to do some more editing AND write a little
Looking forward to doing more tomorrow!

What did you do today? 

Day 1

Well, my wife left me today! Not for good or anything like that. She has a bit of a family emergency back home in TN, that is going to require her to spend a few months there caring for a sick relative. Before that, however, she is off to Texas to help her sister move into her first newly constructed home.
This leaves me in Boston for 20 weeks. Ten weeks with the kids and ten weeks without (I will take them to TN for the second ten weeks and I will visit as often as possible).
After the 20 weeks, we should all be reunited here in Boston.
So, how to spend 20 weeks or roughly 140 days. Well, I hope, rather than moping around and counting the days till September, that I can use the time to be productive. So, I want to accomplish something each of the next 140 days. This is day 1. Here is my plan:

·         Blog
·         Run 3-4 miles
·         Edit Seeds of Vyldur
·         GGP Website
·         Edit RTG
·         Stay on my diet
·         Get Abby to and from Karate

            I hope to report on my progress

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Les Miserables

Finally got to go see Les Miserables on the stage here in Boston. I have wanted to see this musical for 25 years. Here is a recap of my history with Les Mis

  • When it launched, a hot girl in high school was totally into it. Trying to impress her one day, I tried to reference it and I pronounced it sounding something like Lez Mizzeraballs. Embarrassing. 
  • When I was in college, a good friend sang the music constantly prompting me to want to buy the CD
  • After I graduated college, I finally managed to buy the CD and spent several days trying to put the story together from the music. I got...close
  • While I was a firefighter (a lifetime ago), I bought the book and read it, realized it was nothing like the musical, but it made me love the musical all the more (and made me a bit of an expert on the battle of Waterloo since it is detailed in the novel for some strange reason). 
  • Now that I knew the story, I listened to the CD again, and again, and again. Loved it. Memorized it.
  • It was still fifteen years before I was finally in a town where Les Mis was coming to visit. 
  • My wife surprised me with tickets three weeks ago.
  • I saw Les Mis last weekend.

So, how was it when viewed live? It was breathtaking, life changing and unbelievably fantastic. I am still blown away. I could see it another hundred times. It is a fantastic story and the music is amazing, but the whole production is mind boggling. The way the sets change so quickly, the way the effects are done...everything about it.

One note about the production I saw in Boston. Fantine was different than I have ever heard her before. Usually she comes across as sad and a it pathetic to me. Sure she's had a terrible time, but as Kenny Rogers put it, "Every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser." Fantine has always seemed to wallow in her misery. (Admittedly, her life does suck). In any event, the Fantine in this most recent production was awesome. She was clearly pissed off! (As she should be). I loved how angry she came across. It made her much more likeable to me.

So, anyway, I am thrilled that I finally got to see this musical. It is three hours long but it feels like it is about an hour. One other nice thing about the Boston Opera House, you can have alcohol in your seats so I was also able to suck down some adult beverages while enjoying Les Mis. For me, it was like meeting a hot sorority sister you admired from afar in college only now you discover that she is even hotter, and you have a few drinks before sleeping with her and then once you do, it is even better than you ever expected. A crude analogy perhaps, but one that is very apt.

It was just that freaking good!