William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just A Half-An-Hour And Some Change Into The Future . . . Sci-fi, fantasy, politics, visual arts, writing, more writing, literature, comics, music, movies, and madness in general. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either. But don't let that stop you.

The go-to site for fans of science fiction writer William A. Hainline. Also the go-to site for non-fans, or anybody else who wants to follow what this curmudgeonly weirdo of a writer is currently up to in the depths of his mad science dungeon.

On Opinions . . . And On Doing Good Deeds

It's not that I don't value other opinions — I actually do; their critical in honing one's work and craft — it's just that I've received, in the past, such extremely, wildly, sometimes insanely-vitriolic negative reviews of my work that it's driven me to the conclusion that what it really comes down to, sometimes, in the end, is matters of personal taste that somehow touch a very deep nerve in people. As in, it not only "doesn't appeal" to them . . . but it so strongly offends their intellectual taste buds that they immediately projectile-vomit it out and across the room so hard that it sticks to the wall. Other people read my work and they love it; they love it so much that they squee about it and it makes them smile, and they fall in love with the world and with certain characters I've created. Still others are level-headed about it; they read it, identify its flaws, see its potential, see what works really well — and congratulate me on it — but they also point out the weak spots and tell me what needs work and what could use improving.

These last ones are the opinions I value the most, because they're honest and forthright without being condescending; they're useful, and above all, they're practical. They don't say, "cut half of it and it will be better" and leave me floundering. No, they specifically tell me, "Cut this, and this, and that (and here is why), but whatever you do, don't cut this, or this, or that over there." They are good readers, and even better feedback-givers. They are the people I turn to when inspiration is lacking, because they are always at the ready with ideas for what to do next, or what to work on doing better. I don't turn to the people who say, "This is too much," and who leave it at that, because that's not really useful, is it? No, I turn to the people who say, "You can cut this part; this just paraphrases what was said earlier." I turn to the people who say, "Describe his blood with a more robust adjective other than 'crimson.'" I turn to the people who say, "Try to punch up the dialogue here by using a tag other than 'said.'" And I turn to the people who say, "I love this part right here; Dizzy always makes me laugh when she does this to someone." Or, "Why do you always do X with your characters' expressions? You need to give us more variety in your characterizations, Hainline. I suggest having her smile devilishly here."

You see what I mean? Useful stuff that actually helps or encourages or points to a solution to a problem. This is what I — and other writers of all stripes — need in their critiques and feedback. Not condescending, half-witted slogans or half-hearted, one-sentence quips about cutting half of it, or that tired, old, oft-repeated schlock about "killing your darlings." No. They, and I, need practical, useful, work-specific and targeted advice on what to do to make the work better. Do you get this? Does this make sense to you? It does to me.

I post this in the hopes that some of you, as in, other writers, will read it and have an "Ah ha," moment where it penetrates your skulls and sinks it, and you get it, and it makes an impression. That you understand that the others of your "tribe" — that is, the rest of us — are out here, and we, like you, are struggling with our craft on the daily, and that we work just as hard as you do to "do the heavy braining to make the words go," as the famous Twitter meme goes. You're not alone, and we'd like to feel like we're not alone, too.

So the next time someone posts a story snippet, or their cover art, or their blurb, or their sample chapter, and asks for opinions or critique or feedback, try to follow this idea; try to give them work-specific, practical, editorial advice on exactly what to fix, how to fix it, and if possible, and time permits, tell them why it needs fixing. Offer to leave comments in a Word document if they have one or can send you one. Go the extra mile. Don't just sit on your haunches and say, "Oh, someone's work, that's nice." No. If it looks interesting, if it shows any promise, and if the person is nice, and especially if it's someone whom you know — and of course, if you have the time and you're not swamped with your own work and family crises and job stress — then go ahead . . . take the shot and help that person out. They will be appreciative, and they will thank you. And it will be worth it. Hell, I tel you this: It's worth a lot more than some crappy-ass Facebook comment that reads, "Cut half of it and it will be better." Because it actually helps someone grow as a writer. It helps them hone their craft, just as you once honed yours. It makes the world a better place. Just a little. And the gods all know we need that now more than ever, in this Age of Trump and Robot Apocalypses.

People Love To Bitch: An Editorial On smelling farts

First of all, HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR WORLD!

Second of all, a Thought For The Day:  Don't take this the wrong way, okay folks? But here's some friendly advice, because I've had it up to here with a recent phenomenon on Facebook. If you're watching a movie, or reading a book, or listening to an album, and you find it doesn't appeal to you — or you think it's total shit — then do all of the rest of us a favor: Stop. Press the stop button, or put the book down. Don't go any further. Save yourself from the "torture" of having to continue something you do not enjoy, but for God's sake, don't "force yourself" to continue watching, reading, or listening and then go on the Internet and bitch about how "awful" the media you're consuming is. Because you know what? You did it to yourself. You made yourself sit through that, read that, listen to that. Nobody put a gun to your head and said, "You must see this." Nobody told you, "You must experience this." Nope. You did that. Yourself. You set the bar for what you will and won't accept in your media; nobody else sets it for you. You're the critic; you're the judge and jury, and you're the executioner, too. If ya don't like it, then get it outta your face. Kill it, kill it with fire!

I once tried to read "Twilight." I got as far as page 10 before I said, "You know what? Stephanie Meyer can't write worth a shit. She's a terrible writer, and this story is bullshit. I'm not going to read this." And — you know what? — I put the book down. I stopped reading. Now, I still bitch about the cultural phenomenon of "Twilight" because I believe it harms young women, but I didn't go on the Internet and bitch about how bad the book was after "forcing myself" to read all 300 pages of it . . . because I didn't. Because why the fuck would I invest all that time into a book that I knew was going to be complete crap, in my judgment? Why give it that much effort? No way, Jose. I'm not doing that. My time is too valuable. I simply can't see investing it into something I do not actually enjoy; I cannot see "forcing" myself to do something I don't enjoy unless I am being paid to do it. (So this advice is obviously moot if you're actually a paid critic. But let's be honest — very few people who bitch about movies, books, tv shows, and music on the Internet are paid critics, are they.)

So, yeah. Quit "forcing" yourself to "sit through" things you already know you don't like, and thus stop the rest of us from having to hear your incessant whining about them.

This was all started by a post a "friend" of mine made on Facebook, where she was griping about how Ernest Cline's Ready Player One had, overall, a consumerist message to it; she argued that the moral of the book was, "You're good because you consume shit." Which I think is reductive at best, and flat out wrong at worst. She argued that the hero only comes to his realization about real life being better than video games because he's a "good little consumer," and, she hated all the "namedropping" in the book. Which I think completely misses the book's point. It's a book about celebrating 1980's pop culture. Yes it has it's flaws — it doesn't quite succeed as a literary work because it has a weak, passive protagonist whom things happen to rather than him actively working to change things — but it's not meant to have an overall thematic message. She's trying to imprint one on it after the fact. (This is what happens when literary types get hold of popular fiction; they try to imprint literary meaning on a text where it has none, and wind up grabbing at all sorts of weird connotations to the text that have nothing to do with the author's intent.) I tried to politely tell her this, but she vehemently stuck to her guns. So, I made the above post on my own Facebook feed (everything above "This was all started...")

I think this will continue to be a problem for as long as popular fiction endures: Literary types will forever try to imprint deeper meanings upon pop fiction texts, when in fact they have none and do not aspire to messaging or political statement, and in fact do not carry with them any significant thematic import. They also have a tendency to imprint significantly negative meanings on pop fiction texts, if you haven't noticed. They never imprint positive messages onto them; no, it's always negative. I think this is intentional. It's all part of the old bias: "If it's popular, it must be bad." It's also part of the old ego game: "If I say critical things about something that everybody else likes, things that sound insightful, I will appear more intelligent than everyone else." The key word there is things that sound insightful. My friend didn't stop to think that in the universe of Ready Player One, the main character lives in a world of hyper-scarcity, and that the things he "consumes" are no longer valuable monetary commodities, but are purely virtual cultural currency instead . . . and that the only valuable commodity is the OASIS itself, and that he is vying not for the personal financial gain of winning Halliday's Easter Egg, but is instead doing it purely for the sense of personal accomplishment. She didn't take the time to do a deeper reading of the text. Her impressions are superficial, and do not show the hallmarks of actual literary criticism, something I'm actually trained in, having — y'know — actually taken a few classes in it and shit. She's doing a Marxist critique of the book, and that's fine. But there are other readings available. A deconstructionist reading, perhaps. Or a feminist critique? How about an environmental critique? Or a psychological reading? She doesn't understand that there are other schools of literary criticism besides Marxist criticism. She's got one trick down, and knows it well, but that's all she knows. if only she were to take a class in actual literary criticism, and open her eyes a little. 

All in all, Ready Player One is not a great novel. It's good, and it's entertaining, and above all it is FUN, and I love it for what it is — a grand celebration of 1980's pop culture — and hey, it helped inspired The Technowizard Guardians! So that's something!— but it deserved to be treated with more respect than my friend on Facebook gave it. It's a damned fine achievement, and it's popular because it resonates with its core audience, which is something that more books ought to aspire to do. (Yeah, yeah, I know; "Twilight," as much as I hate it, and as much as I think it harms young women, also resonated with its core audience, so what ya gonna do?) RPO doesn't deserve the hate it's getting from the "geek chic" press at the moment; it deserves more respect. It accomplished something few books can do: It struck a nerve deep in the heart of geek culture, and for that, it deserves to be commended. Not many books can do that.

In the end, too, I suppose I am sort of wrong, also, because the book does sort of have a message, as well. In the closing paragraphs of the book — SPOILER ALERT — the main character, Wade, decides to give up video games and instead spend time with his new girlfriend, Art3mis. "I didn't even want to log in," to paraphrase his words. He grows up, beyond pop culture and video games, leaving behind his eternal childhood in the OASIS and embracing a newfound adulthood where he lives in the real world instead of in a fantasy. That's a positive message that flies in the face of what my friend on Facebook was trying to say about the book. It's an even better message than most books aimed at geek culture can ever hope to have. So I disagree with my friend. The book does have a message, and it's a good one. A great one, in fact. I think the literary types are often looking for meaning where there is none, and all too often, in their search, they come upon rotten fruit that has withered on the vine; they miss the flowers blooming right in front of their noses.

So, stop "forcing yourself" to get through things you know you don't like. It does no one any good, least of all you. If you don't like it, and you know you're biased against it, don't read it. Or at the very least, don't bother "reviewing" it, because your review isn't going to be the least objective or impartial. It's going to be slanted by 300 pages, 120 minutes, or 30 minutes, or whatever, of pure hate and seething anger. And that does no one any favors. It adds nothing to the discourse that's useful. All it does is pollute the Internet with one more useless "opinion" that's like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks. And really, who wants to smell a fart?

The Case For the Arts In Times Of Trouble

You know that meme, the one with Winston Churchill, where he's asked about cutting funding for the arts, and he responds with, "Well then, what are we fighting for?" Yeah, that never actually happened. Check Snopes, you'll see. It's an apocryphal quote. What Churchill actually said was this: 

“The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them . . . Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” 

Which, i think, is a much better quote. Because it's so damned true. Also, as a fun historical anecdote, check this out, from ProfessorBuzkill.com:

In 1940, the Battle of Britain was looking bleak. London suffered daily bombings from the Luftwaffe, and German invasion of the island seemed imminent. Kenneth Clark, the Director of the National Gallery in London, wrote to Churchill and suggested that their paintings and artworks be sent to Canada to keep them safe from damage or capture.

“No,” Churchill replied, “bury them in caves and cellars. None must go. We are going to beat them.”

And that’s what they did.

So Churchill was actually more of an Arts-saving badass than that meme gives him credit for. And we need reminding of words and deeds like this in times like these. For now, we are living in the age of Donald Drumpf, the Orange Man, the man who in his version of the federal budget (which I'm hoping gets axed to pieces by Congress and put back together again like some Frankenstein monster, with at least some of the cruelty and stupidity removed from it), which cuts — no, cuts is too light a word; it slashes, it guts — funding for the Arts and Humanities. It completely eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts. Yes, it just gets rid of it. Defunds it entirely. It's gone in Trump's budget. Poof, goodbye. In Trump's world, all that matters is military spending, not writers, artists, poets, actors, musicians, or dancers. Nah, fuck those people. We don't need them. What do they contribute? According to Statista:

The global film industry shows healthy projections for the coming years, as the global box office revenue is forecast to increase from about 38 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to nearly 50 billion U.S. dollar in 2020. The U.S. is the third largest film market in the world in terms of tickets sold per year, only behind China and India. More than 1.2 billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. in 2015. There are about 5,800 cinema sites in the U.S. as of 2015. About 14 percent of Americans go to the movies about once a month, seven percent go see movies in the movie theater twice or three times a month, whereas 37 percent go a few times a year. This is a considerable share taking into account 53 percent of American adults prefer watching movies at home.

And...

The revenue from the global book publishing market is forecast to slightly increase in the coming years, growing from around 113 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to about 123 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. British company Pearson is the largest publishing house in the world as of 2015. Besides Pearson, Thomson Reuters, RELX Group, Wolters Kluwer and Penguin Random House are also leading book publishers in the world. The U.S. has by far the largest publishing industry, followed by China and Germany.

"Yeah," I can hear you saying. "But andy, that's Hollywood. And that's the Publishing industry. That's not government funded!" But oh yes it is. Where do you think big-time Hollywood actors, writers, directors, and technicians get their start? How do you think artists live and stay alive and learn their craft while they're still trying to hit it big, while they're still small-time players, while they're young and dumb and just trying to scrape by? Many do so with the aid of government funding. Many start out in small venues, in local theater, and in publicly-funded venues as well. Many of them get their feet wet in school, in college, or apply for grants to study their craft. A lot of them need the Endowment. Without it, we're going to come up short on talent in this country . . . really quickly. Without the Endowment, in just a few short years, Hollywood and the book publishing industry — as well as the news industry, journalism, and other industries that rely on talent pools from the Arts and Humanities — are going to be coming up short, too, and we as a nation are going to pay the price for it. We will fall behind. This will cost us economically. And it will also cost us a piece of our soul, as well.

Because above all, that's what the Arts give us. Our souls. Neil Gaiman has a famous quote that says that Fairy Tales aren't there to teach us that dragons exist; they're there to teach us that dragons can be beaten. (And right now, we have a dragon in the White House, believe you me.) Art inspires us. It speaks to our spirit. It enriches us inside. It is the one thing that bridges the gaps that stand between out intellects, our memories, our imaginations, and our hearts. It is the language of the soul, spoken universally between all peoples of all nations. Art is philosophy made concrete. It is our values and our metaphysics, and our epistemology, our ethics, turned inside-out and made into physical thIngs that we can see, and touch, and hear. It is our politics, made real and intimate so that we can interact with them in real-time and really see them for what they are, what they represent. Art is a way of closing the distance between disparate peoples. It is what we do when we take our thoughts out of our heads and place them in the context of each other, of society, when we have the courage to take a sample of who we are share it with others for them to learn from, critique, appreciate, and explore. Art is a reflection and a prism of our essential humanity. Without it, we are just jazzed-up apes stumbling around in fancy hovels, tweeting on iPhones about the latest craze in banana fashion. We need our Arts. And if Trump can't see that, then he is the ape.

Like I said — I have hope that at least some of Trump's Republican colleagues are at least not half as backward and regressive as he is. I have hope that at least some of them have half a brain and will see that the Arts are as necessary to this country as oxygen is to the lungs, as blood is to the heart and the body, as food is to the stomach. I have hope that our elected Representatives have not so totally abdicated their humanity that they have forgotten that those movies they like to watch and those books they like to read (if they do still read, that is; some of them make me wonder at times) came from somewhere — from a living mind, a beating heart, a thriving soul, one that was, most likely, nurtured and bore fruit because of the Endowment, because they got a leg up in the beginning. And I have hope that my hopes are not in vain. Because if they are, then a dark day is dawning. One in which we return to savagery, and where the only Art we know is strewn upon the walls of our caves and hovels, and the only thing we know is drudgery and pain, the pain of a People who have forgotten that Art is the gateway to — and the nectar of — the soul.

Maybe Adding A Prologue? Yes, No, Maybe?

Hiyo Everybody. I'm thinking of adding a Prologue to my book. Yeah, yeah, I hear you groaning. But hear me out. Prologues can be good things. They can help "set the stage" for what comes after them. That's actually their whole purpose in life, isn't it? To set the stage, to set up the book itself? Right-O, it certainly is. So here it is, my rough draft of the Prologue to my book. As always, questions and comments are welcome. Please email me with suggestions, ideas, changes, things like that if you think of any!

Worlds hung in the balance, and anxiety-ridden Angels looked on in what Humans might’ve called “fear.” Well, to Humans they would have been Angels; and to them, Humans would have been mere Apes. Though of course, it would be more proper to call these beings what every other species in the cosmos called them in whispered voices carried on the winds of myth and legend: The Watchers. And yet, powerful as they had evolved to become, they still felt this primal emotion: Fear. Fear that all their delicately laid threads of fate and kismet would, at any moment now, all come unraveled and undone, and could at any second  go flying apart and hurl themselves into the void, a web of torn and ragged threads all whirling loose and scattered astray, and all due to their misplaced faith in what Humans simplistically called “Free Will.”

The Girl. She knew how to fight; that much was obvious. She punched and kicked with all the force she could muster, but with the speed and precision of a sniper thanks to her electromechanical Exosuit; she fought like a whirlwind unleashed from a storm, an animal enhanced with cybernetic skills and then set loose from some mad scientist’s laboratory. (It helped that the Girl herself was, in fact, a mad scientist.) She fought, with punches and kicks, and not “as though” her life depended on it, but in fact because her life depended on it; hers and several others’, including the life of the dear adopted uncle whom she loved very much, and whom the man she fought had taken prisoner. That man—no, he was no longer a man, but now a monster—presented an Evil unlike any she had faced before. And though the Girl knew it not, upon the outcome of this fight, there depended the fate of entire worlds, the fates of a thousand branching, arcing parallel universes, and the fates of dimensions where dwelled creatures beyond her wildest imaginings. If she lost, then so too would they be.

The Watchers had wound the threads of the tapestry of fate around this Girl good and tight, and they branched off from her in literally a million different directions and into the Ether of Time and Destiny, influencing and touching the lives of billions, but the Girl had no knowledge of this  . . . All she knew was that she had to win, had to defeat the Evil. She threw another punch and it landed on the jaw of the monster she fought; he rebounded from the blow, and the motors in his own Exosuit whirred as he came back at her and threw a snap-kick at her chest; the blow connected, knocking her back a few paces. But still, she fought on, undaunted. The Watchers felt proud of her. They had done well when they had crafted her genetics while she had still been inside her mother’s womb. Now if only she could live through these crucial, pressing moments . . .

The special Boy they had crafted, on the other hand—and whom they had had such big plans for—was in even deeper trouble at the moment. At least from a certain point of view, and it didn’t take a Watcher to see it. A deep grimness had torn open his heart, and a bleakness clouded his vision of the world; dysphoric clouds obscured his sight of the future’s far horizon—of any future at all, really, and not just his own or the futures of those whom he loved. His world was painted all in blacks and greys, with no rainbows in sight, though whenever there were rainbows, they blinded him with their brilliance. Had they—the Watchers asked themselves—made a mistake when they had touched his DNA in the womb and given him the riches of intellect and imagination that they had? Had they gone too far and created too many dangerous side-effects for him to realistically deal with in his day-to-day existence? Had they, in fact, given him a gift that had also driven him mad? What they saw told them that the Boy’s mind was unraveling faster than the tapestry of fate that they had constructed around him; if he made the wrong choice now, all would be lost . . .

Around the Boy, the threads of that tapestry swirled as though he were a maypole, wound perhaps even tighter than they were around the Girl. They reached outward from him and into a dizzying network of spiraling, interconnected fractal patterns—fluxing, pulsating, and influencing a thousand worlds beyond him, alive with the energy of Time. There were Dragons in his future. Dragons, Vampires, visitors from Other Worlds, and journeys through Dreamshard Universes. And of this, the Boy had no knowledge. All he knew was that at the moment, he hurt, he ached, and oh so deeply; he felt a gnawing loneliness and a pain deep inside that he was convinced he could no longer endure; he knew it was only temporary, for it came in great rushing waves with the illness he suffered from, as well as did the euphorias he sometimes weathered, but he had grown weary of the constant turbulence, the neverending churn of those waves, their endless peaks of rapture and valleys of despondancy. And as he toyed gingerly with the gun he held in his hands, feeling along its smooth surface and reflecting upon what a bullet would actually feel like as it burrowed into his brain and killed him, his own universe grew dimmer, darker, swallowed by shadow, fear, and sadness . . . as well as the slow death of his soul from asphyxiation in the black clouds of depression. He cried out silently for help, but even his dearest friends could not hear him railing within the prison his own neurochemistry had fashioned for him.

Now the time had come. The Watchers eyeing the Girl and the Boy all sucked in a breath and held it. The eldritch clockwork of the universe paused in its ticking.

The Girl’s battle had almost reached a climactic turning point, and as for the Boy, he was about to make his final decision regarding the bullet in that gun.

  

Well, Back To The Drawing Board!

Well, my beta-readers have reported in on my novel. So far, Ana is halfway through the first third of the book, and Greg is about a third of the way through the entire book. So far, Greg's review of the book has been mostly positive, which is good, though he has some sharp criticisms of certain aspects (hilariously, one of his problems is with Dizzy's "vocal tic" of sayin "frak" every time she means to say "fuck," which most other readers find "cute," but that he finds obnoxiously annoying), which I do need to address in the next draft. Ana's review has been more mixed, and she has had some seriously critical feedback for me on many scenes in just the first 250 pages alone, which points to the idea that I may be looking at a bottom-up rewrite of the book, at least in terms of a lot of the scenes . . . which would lead me to just say "fuck it," and write the whole damn book over again anew, since so much of it would have to change anyway. A task I would not undertake lightly, since we're talking about a 480,000 word manuscript, here. That's 1400 pages worth of work if you double-space it and put it in Times New Roman. A Herculean task if ever there was one. I'm not sure I have it in me to do that. I mean, yeah, I guess I do. I mean — what choice do I have? It's either do that, or let the whole damn thing — all that effort, all that work previously — be for nothing. So I know I've got to do it. It's just psyching myself up for the job that's the issue. The thing is, I know it probably does need a rewrite. I mean, the book is in "first draft" mode right now. First draft. As in, a second draft needs to be done. So yeah, there's that. I'm just "not looking forward" to it, is all. But like I said — what else is there to do, other than hitch up my big boy pants, dig in, and begin the work?

Now, there are benefits to doing a bottom-up rewrite of a book. Certainly, there are. You change things when you do that, and often for the better. You examine every word of it, every turn of phrase. You switch around your phrases; you change sentence structure; you identify passages that work and don't work; you discover whole paragraphs that are redundant; you think about the coded messages delivered with your dialogue; you re-examine the impact of every scene upon your book's theme and overall philosophical underpinnings; you think about the plot structure more, and how everything you've written ties into that, and you begin to analyze how your book is put together on a fundamental level. You change the meaning of your book, and you hone the book's overall stylistic approach to its message, its story, and it's tone. You really get at the guts of it, because hell, it's the guts of it you're messing with. So, yeah, there are some definite advantages to doing a bottom-up rewrite, for sure. Like I said, it's just about psyching myself up to do it. I mean, I know I can do it. My mom suggested that I simply break up the job into smaller pieces. "You can eat an elephant one bite at a time," or so goes the old adage. Which is good advice, and hey — Scrivener already does that for you. So yeah, I know I can. It's just the firing myself up inside and sitting down to the do the hard work of putting pen to paper and getting it done that's the problem right now. I've got some time to get myself ready for that, at least: Ana won't be done with the entire book for at least another two months' time, and neither will Greg; he's on Chapter Nine, and she's on Chapter Four, I think. So I can wait until they're done giving me their opinions before I dive into the whole slam-bang rewriting phase. Which is good. That gives me time to jazz myself up for the concept of the rewrite, and to experiment with a few ideas I have floating around in my head for what I might like to do with a couple of those troublesome scenes that need work. Because with me, ideas are never the problem; it's their execution where I sometimes falter!

On The Movies That Wake Us Up

I remember the month and year I became “politically aware.” December of 2005. It was an ordinary day, like any other. But it did not end like one. At 5:35 (I think), I stepped into Great Escape cinemas one person, and at 7:50 (or so) I exited a different one.

Let me set the stage: I was a “good citizen.” I was vaguely liberal on a few social issues, and vaguely conservative on others. I supported the President. Sort of. Even though I quietly made fun of his mannerisms here and there. I also “vaguely” supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or the troops. Or something. I was mostly politically unaware of what was going on around me. I had a muddy “both sides do it’ attitude toward Democrats and Republicans, though I really wasn’t sure what “it” was or why I should care. I didn’t know what a “libertarian” really was or what that meant. I didn’t know or really care who was on the Supreme Court. I got my news and commentary from Fox and CNN. I didn’t watch the Daily Show. I stayed away from topics like race and gender and feminsim — because those tended to start fights — and I did not know what “ableism” and “ageism” were. Plus, I didn’t really know enough about any of those topics to have really formed an opinion on them yet. I was ignorant in the extreme, and my ignorance formed a kind of blissful little cocoon that protected me from reality. I knew I was vaguely angry about the way that gay people were treated — because I knew people who were gay — and I knew that I didn’t like organized religion at all . . . but those views had not yet crystallized into actual political positions for me, because I didn’t yet understand how they were connected to the overall political landscape in Washington, nor how they played out across the country in everyday political settings, nor how they factored into the global political playing field . . . and how they were connected to other political issues and voices that mattered. In other words, I was a sheeple, quietly grazing in the fields of plenty provided for me by the mass media and the dominant paradigm.

Then I heard about a new movie coming out from the Wachowski Brothers. I had liked The Matrix, and so I was intrigued. I had never read Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel V for Vendetta, though I had loved Watchmen to death (though again, even in Watchmen’s case, the political messages had blown right over my head; I was very young when I read it). But hey, it was allegedly a futuristic, dystopian superhero film, and that sounded good to me. But I couldn’t get my friend Greg nor my friend Tonya interested in it. So, one evening, I went and saw it alone.

Hoh. Lee. Shit.

It may seem silly to say (and yes, I know the “problem” with using Guy Fawkes as a historical rallying point), but the tone and narrative of V for Vendetta shook me, and woke me up but good. All at once. And in a hurry. It was blinding, like having a pair of sunglasses torn off your face in the blinding afternoon heat. In the space of two hours and some change, thanks to the Wachowski Brothers and their film, my consciousness was ripped open and scrambled like the bowels of a tourist in Mexico who has made the mistake of ordering the spiciest thing on the menu, and then drinking a gallon of the native water . . . and then taking some laxatives. It was an astonishing and awakening moment for me, one in which so many things all clicked in my head at once. Like the tumblers all fell into place at the same time, like the clockwork gears of a combination lock all ticked into position at the same exact moment, and suddenly, I could see.

I left that theatre a changed person. Rattled to the bone, and suddenly very afraid for the world. I knew what was up. I suddenly understood my friends who were more political than I was; what drove them, why they did what they did; what their values were and why they had them . . . and why I now could no longer be friends with some of the more conservative of them. I had a sudden feeling of desperation — of the need to do something about it — all of it — though I had no idea what exactly I could do. I felt powerless and trapped, insignificant in the greater clockwork of the body politic and the greater political machine. I had been galvanized into suddenly giving a shit, about so many things it wasn’t funny, and the more my head whirled and spun with thought, the more things I found I suddenly gave a shit about, suddenly had an opinion on, suddenly had to do some research on in order to find out more, to know more, to realize more. And the more research I did at home that night and the nights beyond it, the more troubled I became; the more the galvanic charge built up in me, and the more of a progressive I slowly, gradually graduated into. The more I was pushed leftward, in other words; the more I studied the issues, the greater sense of wrongness I felt at the then-current situation, and the more I felt in my gut that things had to change, somehow, or else the world would perish from an orgy of corruption and indulgent, ignorant buffoonery on the part of conservative politicians everywhere.

Now, in the age of Donald Trump, I feel that the message of V for Vendetta — both the movie and the book, for they are very different creatures, owing to the fact that the movie is very much “inspired by” the book and not strictly “based on” it — is more timely and prescient than ever. It speaks to the days we live in now. Even though the film takes place in a dystopian England of the near future, it might as well take place in the America of today. Neo-Nazis run riot in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, killing an innocent woman, and the President issues a lukewarm response; the Russians might have been directly responsible for his election to the Presidency, and yet we have an electorate where 35% of the voters literally do not care that this is the case . . . and in fact still cheer his so-called “victories” when he champions police brutality and the denigration of our Muslim and Hispanic citizens. Yes, V’s immortal words — “these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition!” — though whimsical, are a fitting description of Trump and cronies like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. Never did I think I would fear my own government as I fear this one; never did I think I would have to. I had my beefs with President Obama — contrary to popular belief, he was not every progressive’s “dream come true”; he had a lot of warts that we progressives were not happy about — but never under his watch did I go to bed wondering if World War III was going to break out because of his Twitter feed, nor did I fear that due to his encouragement — or his lack of discouragement — Neo-Nazis might decide it was a good idea to set up camp in my home town and throw a big ol’ book burning party. We know, after all, that Trump doesn’t like to read.

So perhaps it’s time to dust off those books, movies, and TV shows that first “woke” you. Revisit them. Pay homage to them. Revel in them once more. Look upon them with fresh eyes in this age when being woke matters more than ever, and also, try to see them, once again, through the eyes you once saw them through . . . the eyes of a Sleeper. Let them wake you all over again, perhaps in new ways. And then — share them with someone who needs waking up. You probably can’t wake that person up on your own. And the movie, book, TV show, or comic book you share with them probably won’t do the job all by itself, either. But who knows? It might open the door a tiny crack. It might nudge them toward awakening just a little bit. It might push them closer to the edge of awareness just a tiny, small fraction more than the were the day before. And before you know it, you might just have a woke person on your hands. You never know. You can at least try.

Good luck. And remember, it’s like V said: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The Novel Is FINISHED! Well, The first draft at least...

It's DONE! I'm done! The novel is finished, at long last! 481,758 words of it, to be precise. All done, with a proper ending and everything. I feel as though a major chapter in my life has at long last come to a fulfilling close, the final words "THE END" marking the finish of a long journey that I started twelve long years ago in a different apartment, in almost another life. I was a different person then, almost a totally different writer, with different goals and a different mindset about the work. It shows in the evolution of my style, I think; that's why I had to go back and do so much rewriting over the years that I kept working on it. But now, it's finished, finito, and the grand finale has played at last in this singular concert of the mind that was this epic story that just had to come out of me. I stretched and strained, grunting and groaning, pushing and stressing . . . wait, you know what? This isn't a good metaphor, so I'm just going to cut it short, turn things around, and say that producing this novel was a lot like giving birth. There, that's better. Yeah, giving birth. That's it. I'm not a woman, and I've never actually given birth, so I don't know if it's really a fair comparison to make, but boy, it sure felt like it at times. There was rough going for a few years in the middle there. Times when I thought I was finished, and so I would put something out, only to be mortified by my hideous lack of judgment later on. Times when I thought i would never be finished, and I would despair, hopeless, and would want to throw in the towel. Luckily I had friends and family who kept me going, kept me on the path, who stood me up and slapped me in the face with fresh motivation to keep me moving, keep me writing, keep me sane. There were times I didn't know if I was going to live to see the thing completed, when I struggled with depression and anxiety so badly I thought I was going to up and follow Gadget's path that he struggles with at the book's outset ‗ that's right, suicide. But thankfully, my friends and family came to my rescue there again. They kept me on the straight and narrow, kept me alive, kept me writing. And so it has come to pass that now the book is finished, and I . . . Don't know what to do. I feel strangely free. Strangely at odd-ends. Is this what happens to all writers once they finish pushing out a huge brain-turd — er, child! I mean CHILD! — like this?

Above all, I feel proud. Proud of the work, proud of the achievement. Proud to finally stand back from the laboratory table, cackling with mad glee as the lightning strikes and the creature rises from the slab, and I intone in my best evil voice, "It's alive!" I feel good about this book. Better than I ever have about any other creative project I've embarked on. Better than I have about any other foray into the arts I've tried. I think it has to do with the fact that I planned it. I sat down about two years ago, rolled up my sleeves, and drew up blueprints before I got started, and decided how I wanted the story to flow; I built a foundation first, and then erected the house on top of it. And now that I've finally finished the whole structure, I feel that its beauty is in part due to the planning that went into it. It was a lot of work. Now the really hard work is done; now comes the next phase — the editing, the beta-reading, the fixing all the little problems and the sanding, the polishing, the fixer-upper part, the part where I go through and twiddle with all of the knobs and hook up all the cables into just the right sockets, so that the whole machine hums along as it was designed to. So that the engine runs just right. So that the house lights up just the way I want it to. WHICH SHOULD BE THE REALLY FUN PART!

I am so glad i wrote this novel. It gets a lot of things down on paper that I've always wanted to say, but didn't know how to say until my characters said them for me. It gets a lot out of my system that I didn't know how to get out, until I found myself writing it there on the page. It tells a story that I think I always wanted to tell, but didn't know how to tell until I found myself writing it, found myself letting it unfold before my eyes, found myself living it right alongside my characters and letting myself experience it alongside them and their whacky hijinks. I think it's a good book. Whether the rest of the world thinks so, or not, will be the icing on the cake for me. What matter is I wrote it, and I meant it, and it will always be a triumph because dammit, I started it, and I finished it. And that's good enough for me.

 

The Second Act Is Finished!

Well, I've finished the Second Act. That is, the major Climax of the book is over and done with and resolved. That means we're on to Act III, the Resolution of the book. The last two chapters. It's all literally down hill from here, folks. The final chapters where the characters take their final bows to the audience, and leave the stage, and where I finally creep up on those two ultimate words: THE END. I still have no real clue how I'm going to end the book. Well, that's a lie. I have sort of an idea of how I'm going to end it. I know how I want to end it, at least. I know what I want that last scene to look and sound like, and I have a pretty good idea of what I want the last words to look and sound like. I think I even know what they will be, and who they will be spoken to, and whom by. I also think I have an idea for a rousing final speech by one of the characters, to sort of sum things up, as it were, and I think I know which character to give that speech to. And I think I know where all of the major characters are headed to in their new lives; what direction their fates will take them in after the book is over. So, I think I've got a good handle on THE END, and where it will leave the characters.

The only problem is — you guessed it — bringing myself to actually write it. I find I don't want to. I don't want to let go of these characters. I don't want the story to end for them. I want it to go on forever. I want it to keep on trucking, on into eternity, because I like spending time with these guys. I like who they are, who they've become over the course of the story, and I like writing about them. But, I guess, to all good things must come an end at some point, right? Right. And this story has gone on a LONG time. When you put it in standard manuscript format, the thing's page count balloons to over 1500 pages. That's absurdly huge. I'm not even sure my editor won't laugh me out of the country for sending it to her. But I'll give it a shot anyway.

So, that's where I am. Writing THE END. The final punch. Wish me luck, won't you?

Only Two And A Half Chapters To Go!

Well, I'm down to the last two and a half chapters, folks. I'm in the midst of writing the big, climactic battle sequence — the big one, the enormous climactic battle sequence that will be the final, epic struggle between the forces of good and evil in the book, the final showdown between the good guys and the bad guys — and everything is going very well. So far the good guys have a tough fight ahead of them, but so far, no one else has died (yet), and it looks like there have been a few unexpected developments that have set up some interesting resolutions for some of the characters that, if they play out the way I have planned, will end the book on a very satisfying note. I can't wait. I actually know how it's going to end, now! Before, I had no real clue of how it was going to end . . . it was all up in the air, and I had no feel for how those final words on the last page were going to look or sound. Now, I have a definite idea in my head for what they're going to be like, and it's wonderful. The ending I have in mind will be sure-footed and feel great, I think, and be really rewarding . . . for one character in particular, I thInk. Maybe more than one, too. If all goes according to plan, each of the surviving characters will see their arc fully completed, their story come full circle. I'm so excited!

The story's themes all seem to be coming together, too. Originally, I had no idea of how i was going to blend the story's three main themes together — Gadget fighting his mental illness and the idea of accepting yourself for who you are and not who you wished you were . . . the notion of finding your place in the world, finding where you fit in even if the rest of the world didn't seem to want you . . . and the theme of the Mundanes vs. the "Special" people, the geeks and nerds of the world. Now, I have an idea of how to blend those three things together seamlessly, of how to bring them together into a harmonious chorus with one another, make them really sing together. I won't blow it for you here — you'll just have to read the book to find out how I'm making it all work together, of course — but I promise, it will be something special to behold.

The book will also be shorter than was originally planned. Originally, I had estimated it would be around 500,000 words. Well, before I went back and started rewriting the first seven chapters (a project I embarked on about a month ago), it was going to be around 520,000, actually. Now, it's only going to be around 480,000. That's because when I went back and did the rewriting, I chopped out around 40,000 words of unnecessary noodling around in the beginning that delayed a lot of major plot-points from getting going. In other words, the book was too slow to get started, the plot took forever to jump start itself, and so I sped things up a little. I took out a lot of unnecessary backstory that didn't need to be there, and removed a lot of build-up that I found just got in the way of the story. And lo, 40,000 words just disappeared! So yay, the book will be shorter, and the plot gets going a lot sooner than it did. Which is a good, good thing. I'm updating the sample chapters here on the website to reflect the changes.

All in all, things are going swimmingly. The book should go to the editor sometime around Aug. 30, if all goes well, if not before then. Catch you on the flip-side, brahs and sisters!

And So Progress Upon The Manuscript Continues . . .

Well, I've reached—and surpassed—the 400,000 word mark on The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom. Right now the book sits at around 430,000 words. I'm closing in the on 500,000 word goal, folks! According to Scrivener, all I need to do is write about 800 words a day from now until August 1st—and I plan to write a lot more than that and finish early, of course—and the book will at long last be finished. It will probably come in either a little under or just over the initial word count goal, unless I miss my guess; I never hit the target exactly, as I suspect few writers actually do. (C'mon; who writes exactly 50,000 or 60,000 words? Nobody I know, except robots, and I don't see Commander Data or the Enterprise bright computer publishing anything these days, do you? Yeah, that's what I thought; of course you don't.)

But, you might ask, other than word count, how's the story going? How are the characters shaping up? What's the plot of the book looking like these days? Well, I have to say—pretty damn good. I think that readers will be pleased. The book really winds up into high gear in the final five or six chapters, kicking into some high-octane action sequences and really revving up the pace, and gets into some serious "cyberpunk" territory, with the construct of the NeuroScape becoming much more important, as well as Gadget's "dreamworld" becoming much more center-stage, as well. It's here in these final six or seven chapters that everything in the book finally really comes together, everything that's been built up so far: The Vampires, the villains, the Elder Gods, the cyberpunk stuff, Gadget's dreamworld, the aliens . . . everything just collides and explodes in a big ball of awesome. I wish I could describe it in more detail, but, like Dr. Riversong says: "Spoilers." I wouldn't want to ruin anything. I will say, however, that the gang finds themselves having to do battle with Aleister on multiple levels of reality simultaneously. If you've read any of the sample chapters that I made available in the past, you might remember that he exists in more than just one place . . .

But, that's how it's going so far. Work continues apace. I should be done with the book in another couple of months. Hell, if I keep going at the pace I've been going at this past week or so, I'll be done in just one month. (Huzzah!) Wouldn't that be something. I'll of course keep you all posted on all the latest developments. Cheers!

The Official Book Trailer For "The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom" Has Arrived!

Well, you all knew it was coming, and the day has finally arrived! After about four weeks of work in DAZ Studio — including some insane render times producing the 3D animations required — and Autodesk Maya (producing the custom 3D content for Dizzy's Exosuit and Guitar, and Gadget's Mind-Weirding Helm), along with about two weeks' worth of work in Apple's Motion, and then about a day's worth of editing in Final Cut Pro X, I've finally completed work on the book trailer for The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom. To top it all off, my excellent friend Rommy Driks agreed to provide me — free of charge! — with some voiceover narration, volunteering to read aloud the excerpt from the book that appears at the beginning of the trailer. There's been some discussion on my writer's group on Facebook about whether or not the text at the beginning goes by too quickly or not — my friend Ana and I think it's fine, but there are some detractors who think it flies by a little too fast for people to read — but other than that, reviews so far seem pretty positive. Take a gander at it below and see what you think!

A Quick Flash Fiction Piece Inspired By Some SciFi Art

Hey all. I recently posted a flash fiction challenge on the writer's group I run on Facebook, and I wanted to share my entry here on my blog! Here's the scifi desktop wallpaper I used for the inspirational prompt, with the instructions being to write a 100 to 300 word flash fiction piece to go along with it:

And here's my entry in the flash fiction challenge:

It was dead. She had killed it. The creature, part blue-sparking machine made of servo motors and circuits, and part gristle and flesh, pumping crimson blood, now a sliced-up corpse made of severed muscles and limbs, lay before her on the street. Who had made it, and who had sent it after her? It was a custom job, that was for sure; she had never seen anything else quite like it. Nature didn’t make animals with teeth that big, and she sure as shit didn’t make them with PX-91 servos stuck inside their hindquarters, driving them after their quarry at fifty miles per hour while the cyber implants in their brains overdrove their amygdalae and adrenal glands. Lyxana sheathed her katana and stood there for a moment, thinking. It had to be someone with money, someone with connections, and there had to be a reason for it. Who else had she worked for recently who might’ve incurred the wrath of the rich and powerful? Whom might she have been Running for and not have known what she was Running? You didn’t send a biomech like this one chasing after a low-level Runner like her unless you thought that said low-level Runner had seen something they weren’t supposed to . . . had maybe dipped their sensors into whatever next-level shit you yourself were wired into brain-deep. Had maybe glimpsed the truth of whatever it was you were trafficking in. Lyxana shivered. She, personally, hadn’t seen shit. Until now. Until this . . . thing . . . had chased her down and almost mauled her to death on the street. But now that she had? She wanted—no, needed—some answers. She hoped back on her trans, and fired up the engine. It was time to hit the streets.

"The Technowizard Guardians" Secretly Has A Theme Song? Who'dA THOUGHT?

Well, I didn't really know this, but it appears that The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom has an unofficial theme song out there. I found it by accident. It's by a singer named Delain, who is pretty freakin' awesome. She's a hard rock singer from overseas, and this song of hers is absolutely the perfect theme song for The Technowizard Guardians. Why? Because it speaks to one of the core themes of the book, and that is that being "different" is a good thing, that standing out from the crowd is awesome, and deserves to be rewarded, not punished; that being a square peg in a round hole can be a beautiful thing, worthy of celebration. It's perfect. And, it's got an undertone that addresses bullying, as well, which is something that one of my characters has struggled with in his past. So there's that, too. My friend Greg introduced me to Delain and her work; he's a total metalhead, so that figures, right? Go check her out on YouTube if you get the chance; most of her stuff is pretty damn rad. She's enormously talented. But for now, enjoy We Are The Others:

I've Started My Own Writer's Group On Facebook

Well, the apocalypse has finally arrived. No, FOX News is not being unbiased and honest. No, Kim Kardashian is not studying quantum physics. And, William Shatner has not become a really fantastic Shakespearean actor overnight. No, I started my very own writer's group on Facebook! I did this for many reasons . . . not the least of which is that I noticed that on Facebook, there seems to be a lack of really good, engaged writers groups. Every group you find there seems to lack heart and soul, or seems to be there just to engage in either endless self-promotion, or seems to be so caught up in strict rules and regulations so that all creativity and life has been squeezed out of the proceedings entirely. So, I decided to create my own writer's group, and made a couple of good friends of mine a pair of admins along with me. So we'll see how this adventure turns out. It should be really exciting! For those who would like to join up, here's the link:

~—> Fantastic Writers And Where To Find Them <—~

 

Going From Pantser To Plotter

When I first began writing, I was a pantser. That is, I flew by the seat of my pants. I wrote as the will of the winds took me; I wafted on the zephirs of pure inspiration, letting the story take me wherever it wanted to go, allowing the narrative to grow organically from the seeds of the idea into a writhing mass of vines and branches that would, often, get out of control and need to be trimmed back a bit like an unruly rose bush. I had a lot of fun that way. It was often exciting to see a story bloom out of control, its buds opening to the rays of my imagination and intellect, flowering and blossoming and coming into its fullness over time as I watered it and gradually let it become its own thing. Every story I wrote was unique, too. No too were alike. I liked doing things this way, because it always seemed I was surprised by what I created. And, I always told myself, if I didn't know where the hell the story was going, then by gods, the reader sure as hell didn't know, and that made it exciting for both of us! I figured that this was the only good way to write. I didn't need outlines — no sir, I didn't need a carefully synopsized plot, or an organized plan of attack. I didn't need a story structure set in stone ahead of time. Where was the fun in that? Where was the spontaneity? Where was all the gooey deliciousness of seeing where the story went next, of seeing what surprises lay in store around the very next corner?

And then I tried to write my first "real" novel, The Reality Engineers. I finished it within a couple of years, and I hit the "publish" button on CreateSpace, and dutifully waited for the praise to roll in from the no-doubt-glowing Amazon reviews to come. And I waited. And waited. And then, finally, the reviews started to trickle in. Trouble was, they weren't all glowing. Some of them were downright awful. Mean, even. Even some of my friends didn't like the book. They told me privately, of course, sparing me public humiliation. It was then that I knew I had screwed up. Big time. But where? How? How on Earth had I gone wrong? I honestly thought that I had written the best book I knew how to write. And I was correct in that thinking. But notice the fine print, there: That I knew how to write. It was the best book that I knew how to write, given the methods I had used to write it.

Then I bought a book called Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks. I got it at Half Price Books for only $8, and let me tell you, that's probably the best $8 I ever spent. In that book, Larry enlightened me and showed me what I had done wrong. He opened my eyes to the idea of story structure, the fact that a book, a story, like anything that exists in the physical world, has a set of rules that it operates by, a set of physics, if you will, that holds it together and makes it run, the same way that the laws of physics dictates how an atoms works, or how an engine runs in a car. He showed me that a story has to have a certain structure in order to work properly, in order to have its intended effect; showed me that in order for a story to achieve its goal — that of being emotionally satisfying and hitting all the right notes for the reader — it has to fire on certain cylinders at certain times and points, in certain places, and that it has to do things in a specific order. He showed me the importance of organizing a story into its constituent components, and of planning my story one piece at a time. Of organizing my novel into scenes, with each one building upon the next in order to achieve specific goals and set up specific ideas in certain and specific places. In short, he introduced me to the world of outlining my novel, of drawing up a blueprint before i began writing. Of becoming a plotter rather than a pantser. 

And to this day, I am a plotter. When I have an idea for a story, my first thought is to recall Brooks' argument of concepts versus ideas — the notion that a complete story concept involves a specific character in a specific situation, trying to achieve a specific goal, versus an idea, which is just a "what if" scenario or situation — and try to coalesce my thoughts around a character who's doing something versus just a nebulous "what if." Then my thoughts turn to the crucial inciting incident, the thing that gets the character going on his journey. Then I start thinking about structure. Do I want to use Larry's six-part structure, or do I want to use Joseph Campbell's "monomyth" structure, also known as the Hero's Journey? Do I want to "save the cat?" Do I want to use the most common structure, which is three acts? I think these thoughts now automatically; then I start outlining. I start with the inciting incident, and I always think in terms of characters now, in terms of what roles they might play, what duties in the story they might serve.

Of course, I would be lying my ass off if I said I still didn't let inspiration sweep me off my feet. Of course I do that. Of course there's room in the process for that. There has to be. That's why while I outline the overall structure of the work — writing an outline of which scenes go where and what role they play in the overall story — when it comes to writing the individual scenes themselves, I'm all about cutting loose and letting my imagination take over the keyboard. I let it all fly, then. Anything goes. I will imrpov-write the shit out of those scenes, and enjoy the hell out of myself as far as anything-goes  inspiration is concerned. And as far as the connective tissue between those scenes goes — the other scenes that glue the main scenes together — well, I improv those as well, totally pantsing the shit out of them like I never left the pantsing school to begin with. I have great fun with them; I liken them to the cartilage and tendons that hold muscle tissue together, and I am a god, designing whole new lifeforms. I have total berserker amounts of giggly fun doing it, too. Like a writer should. Because in the end, it's all about the fun you have with your craft. If you're not having fun with it, you're doing something seriously wrong.

So that's how I went from pantser to plotter. It was a revelatory journey for me, one that began with me wafting on the breezes of inspiration, but where the transformative moment came in the form of a rude awakening from dewy, creative bliss . . . and a subsequent moment of enlightenment given to me by an old master of the craft. Larry taught me a good set of lessons with his book (a book a highly recommend to anyone who's just getting started writing; I only caution that Larry can be a little full of himself and a bit overbearing at times; try to take his ego with a grain of salt . . . several grains, if you can). I don't recommend that everyone start out as a plotter, though. In fact, I caution against it. I think everyone should start out as a pantser, because you learn a lot of valuable lessons that way. You learn what works, and what doesn't. What's good, and what's not so good; what's effective, and what's not. You learn a lot about your own style as a writer, and you develop a sense of your own plotting abilities and your own sense of narrative development that way. Being a plotter from day one cheats you out of a lot of hard-won experience. So, I recommend that everyone go through at least a year or so of being a full-time pantser . . . and then make the transition to being a plotter. It will help you be a better writer, and you'll learn a greater appreciation of plotting's lessons.

And that's my writing advice for today: Pants first, then plot. But if you're a pantser now, please consider doing some plotting. It will, in the long run, save you frustration. Plotting is a wonderful tool that will open up whole new vistas of the writing world to you, whole new worlds of organized fun for you to play in and explore. So plot away. Boldly go where you haven't gone before!