A Long Time Coming Indeed (The Documentary of a Legend)

Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)

Courage (for Hugh MacLennan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)G

(First posted on Medium.)

Gord Downey, the singer-frontman of the band The Tragically Hip, lost his battle with brain cancer last week. He was 53.

Last night, CTV here in Canada aired the documentary about his farewell tour across Canada, ending in his hometown Kingston, Ontario.

Many Americans don’t know the band because they are more a Canadian phenomenon.

Full disclosure here: in the past, I wasn’t a huge fan of the band — but as I listened to all of their hits, I realized that I WAS.

Before anybody else points it out: writing songs is hard. I can be poetic in my writings, but I’m not good at poetry… and songwriting is even more difficult. I tried to write some in the past, but I wasn’t very good.

Gord Downey wrote songs for over 30 years — for 14 albums and more EPs and singles.

Even more admirable: his body was failing more and more every day; he still performed a concert tour across Canada — plus he performed 90 songs, where most people sing 45 songs at most.

He was one of the hardest working men in the music industry, and one who used his celebrity to bring more notice to the mistreatment of our First Nations brethren.

Spring Cleaning …. in Fall

cleaning products

Spring Cleaning

After the last time that I said that I intended to update this blog more often, I stayed away even longer!

Mea culpa – – but this time, there’s a reason. A good one: since May of this year (2017) I’ve been part of a group that posts on Medium. It’s just like blogging, but it has a much larger potential audience. I will still post here (in fact I’ll re-post relevant content here), but the greater exposure appeals to me.

Here’s my profile on their site.

I also put a new design on this blog, after using the same one for ages. The new one has much less clutter. Do you like it?

 

 

How I’m Getting Back Into Regular Writing

I haven’t updated this blog with new content in a long time. Both my short story and my novel have been stalled. I hope to get a habit of regular writing started again.

Why?

The blog was due to burnout. Although this blog I’ve been publishing on for more than 3 years, I’ve grown exhausted at continuing that schedule proved to be tiring.

My Steps to Solving That

I’ve begun a new content calendar to get this (and other social media) onto a more regular posting schedule. In the past, I just posted online at random times. Hopefully, I won’t from now on.

To help me to post here more often, I’ll  prepare several posts before I launch them here, so I’ll have a bank of pieces to post every week. In the past, I would prepare one piece at a time; as a result, I would always have the pressure to update while the content suffered. This way, that pressure will be lessened.

That’s one piece of my new writing strategies:

Short Story/Novel

Short story collection

Short story collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These too sat around untouched for a long time. Far too long.

The Reason for My Long Delay

The reason is also proof that I’m truly a writer: self-doubt.What is that? It’s something that many other writers have experienced (including the far-better-than-I Neil Gaiman): a voice in my head – and in many others – says that we’re not good enough, we can’t finish what we start either.

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 ...

English writer Neil Gaiman. Taken at the 2007 Scream Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The voice is crippling. I didn’t touch my novel for over a year as a result.

How I’m Solving That (regular writing)

Two things are helping The first is one we’ve always used for NaNoWriMo: ignore it.

There we call it our Internal Editor and do our best to not pay attention to it.

The other thing that I’m doing is that I joined a group called Ninja Writers. They have a pretty active Facebook Group [here], and also a Patreon that I’ve joined.

Ninja Writers logo

Ninja Writers is based off a philosophy espoused by the late Ray Bradbury:

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The basic idea is that every day I write for 10 minutes and I also read for another 10. The idea isn’t that new. I’m a member of another Group called 10 Minute Novelists [here], and I bought a book about starting a similar writing habit of 8 minutes per day.

Regardless of the amount of time, the important thing is to build up a regular habit of writing. I have to rebuild mine. Plus: so far, it helped me to finish the first draft of my novel, and to break my inertia on the short story for my e-mail list.

I thank Ninja Writers for that. I’m back to regular writing because of it.

I realize that I’ve said I was restarting before. I hope that this time it works.

Why I’m an indie author re-visited

I’ve been suffering “blog burnout” for some time. To counteract it I’m rewriting older posts with some new content as well.

If I was under a contract to a big company, I could only write the books that  I was under contract for. I could write other things, but I’d likely have to sit on them for a different deal,=  or have to publish them under another publisher, under a pseudonym.

As an indy, I can publish whatever I want whenever I choose to.

Example: I’m writing a short story for my email list (set in the ‘world’ of my novel) and have the outline for a non-fiction work after I’m done with the novel, as well as notes for another series… my mind is busy!

Advantage: indie pub

Independent Truck Company logo

Independent Truck Company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I was under a contract to a big company, I  would be hampered to writing in just one genre, and just one style. If I was signed for one series, I would be forced to write for that series alone. If it was for novels (it often is) I could only write novels and not short stories or non-fiction (the exception being if they help to drive interest to your contracted novels, and if they don’t affect your contract time).

[Of course, Steven King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rawlings are exceptions to this rule.]

As an indie pub author, on the other hand, I can write and publish whatever  I want and when I want to. I can start one series, then another, then put out an unrelated short story or a non-fiction work. I have that freedom.

See what I said above.

Winner: INDIE PUB

People under contract to a big publisher have no control over how their work is presented.

Indie pub authors control every aspect. The cover art is what they chose, as are the fonts (for a hardcopy book; for eBooks it’s still not under your control) and even illustrations inside the book.

You can print on demand and/or e-publish on Kindle/Nook/epub/Smashwords/whatever you choose.

[If you pick the  Kindle KDP program you can’t try another for 90 days..]

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

Audiobook? Indy Pub authors can do this at will, and profit from it. Authors on contract can too — if they’re on the contact to get paid for it. Otherwise, the publisher might produce one, but all profits go to them.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

To play Devil’s Advocate, there is a big negative: all the costs (art, editing, advertising, etc.) come to you. After your first work sells, you can set money aside for the next one, but that first one may cost a lot.

grudging win: traditional pub

Novels in a Polish bookstore

Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one minus doesn’t outweigh the positives, though.

My final post of 2016: Reflections

Here are my reflections on the year passed…

I haven’t posted here since early October. Blog burnout is as self-doubt in writing. I’m experiencing both at the same time.

El domingo 20 de marzo de 2011, a las 17:00 ho...

Lucky me.

Part of the Bad Year

2016 has been a bad year for many of us. Music icons have died. Many.  Celebrities in many other fields died. Just 3 days ago as I write these words

Carrie Fisher at WonderCon 2009.

Carrie Fisher at WonderCon 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Princess Leia from Star Wars, Carrie Fisher, died of a heart attack.  A day later

 

her mother Debbie Reynolds died of a major stroke (though many say it was caused by heartbreak).

There were also far too many terrorist slayings (anything more than 0 is too many). Also, many hate crimes including the slayings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

I won’t even mention the recent US Election results… sort of. I won’t go into them in detail,  a) because this isn’t a politics blog and b) a good way to burn bridges with potential readers would be to tick them off with partisan rants — so I won’t do any. All I will say is that it was an ugly election, and I hope never to see one like it again anytime soon.

In terms of my writing, as I said 2016 was not great for me either. with these words, you may be wondering if this is meant only as a gloomy post. I’m only explaining part of why 2016 is a year we’d all like to forget, me too. I’ve already started steps to make 2017 a better year for me.

Things to Come

I already have an article ready for a friend’s fanzine, and I’m working on a second one for another issue. I will  =use this to galvanize me to relaunch my own zine from dormancy and to write a few letters for other zines that I’m a member of.

I’ve  created a new editorial calendar to bolster the regular posting of updates on this blog, to get the newsletter for my mailing list more regular… and (I hope) to help me to get my short story done and my novel after it.

Goodbye to 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out – and may 2017 be a good year!

 

Definition of Dramedy, part one

My short story and novel – and the series that they’re a part of – supernatural dramedy, is fairly new to fiction (although technically Janet Evanovich does it in all but name), but it has a long history on television.

The word ‘dramedy’is a combination of ‘drama’ and ‘comedy’. As a genre, it combines them too: the subject matter is dramatic, with moments of humor mixed in.

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in ...

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joss Whedon has made his career in this genre; see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and more… but there were other series before them.

One of the most popular (although there were others) was LA Law. It ran from Sept. 15, 1986, to May 19, 1994.

 

David E. Kelley was showrunner until the end of the fifth season of the show, and it also gave new life to the career of actor Susan Day (Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family) as Grace von Owen.

The series was set in the fictional law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak.

What makes this an example of dramedy: the show deals with serious issues (AIDS, LGTBQ issues,racism,domestic violence, etc.) but wrapped around the issues were running gags and other bits of humor.

For example partner Chaney dies of a heart attack in the opening of the first episode, but at first, nobody knows because all we see is his hand clutching a tax manual. At his funeral, we learn that the secretary he last hired is transgender and that they met originally at a gay bar (this revelation comes to his wife just now). He paid for the secretary’s surgery, and the hire was meant to be the first real world test. One of the surviving partners fires her immediately due to his transphobia.

(This was in the late 1980s, and the firing character was an over-sexed womanizer. Regardless, I don’t find that funny now.)

This series was co-created by Steven Bochco, and it had a large ensemble cast. Rigger, Mortiz and Shivver doesn’t have as big a cast, but there is an ensemble nonetheless.

I’ll continue this in my next post.

Writing Mood: My Way to Get Into it

Not everyone does this, so I’m not making this concrete advice — but you may find it helpful to put you in the writing mood…

To get into the mindset for writing fiction, this may seem redundant but try freewriting.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on what it is.

Doing it is not hard:

Freewriting (Mood) How-to

icon for notepad

icon for notepad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      • Open up a simple Notepad (On a computer is good for this).
      • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
      • Just write for all of that time, whatever comes to your mind. No edits. Don’t worry about making sense.
      • Don’t save it.
      • When time is over, close the Notepad (or the paper if you wrote by hand.

The purpose is just to get your mental pathways open to writing after. It’s  a warmup process.

I made a PDF of tools for this on Windows, Linux or Mac OSX. Join my list and I’ll send it to you. Update: it’s now a Checklist.

 

List of Robert Heinlein’s Juvenile Novels

With my last post about Heinlein‘s juveniles, a list of them made sense. So, here they are:

Here’s the list of Robert A. Heinlein’s Juveniles

Robert Heinlein, SF YA Precursor

When I researched this on Wikipedia I found that I’m not the only person to make that link. 

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert...

Robert A. Heinlein, with Ginny Heinlein Robert and Ginny Heinlein in Tahiti 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert A. Heinlein was   one of the three people seen as pillars of the Golden Age of science fiction (that’s another post). He wrote many books and short stories, but a period of his novels are considered as the start of YA, although he didn’t consider them as such.

Books by Robert A. Heinlein

The books that I’m referring to are his juveniles.

Between 1947 and 1958e had 12 such novels published by Scribner, with another (Starship Troopers) published by Putnam instead (Scribner rejected it) and another novel (Podcayne of Mars) listed as a juvenile, though he didn’t consider it one.

Heinlein didn’t consider these books as juveniles, at least not by nature. They were written for younger readers, but Heinlein had great respect for these younger readers, so he tried to write more challenging fare for them. In fact, this got him into hot water with his editors at Scribner, and often,  after he brought guns into his novels, starting with Red Planet.

He also wrote 2 short stories in Boy Scout magazine, Boy’s Life. He created them after his tours in WW II, trying to diversify his writing from only pulp SF magazines. These stories were serialized.

Not only focussed on boys, he took a challenge to write for girls too, which led to 3 Maureen “Puddin'” stories in Calling All Girls magazine. He liked the character so much that he lowered her weight and relocated her to Mars for Podkayne of Mars.

I have to re-read this book. The original ending was hated by fans, so Heinlein rewrote it, then had it published with both endings. I don’t remember what they were. It’s been  more than 3 decades since I read it.

Pundits call it a juvenile, but Heinlein himself did not. His involvement with Scribner and the juveniles line ended when they rejected Starship Troopers. As an aside, I don’t see a novel about interstellar wars as a book for young people, it was just not a great book to me.

What made the juveniles a step toward YA: youths are the protagonists of the stories. Not bad, considering they were written nearly 80  years ago.

My changed view on NaNoWriMo

I’ve done NaNo since 2003 and tried Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. The

Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

first four times I ‘won’ the 50 K challenge, but didn’t achieve it ever since, and didn’t achieve the goal for Camp either. I didn’t even get halfway there.

My Changed View

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m now putting too much pressure on myself to complete the marathon, to the point that I’m stalled to actually do so.

So, I’ll plan to try a different approach and see how it works for me:  from now on I’ll use the start of a NaNo event to spur me to start a project (a novel in November, something else for Camp) but I won’t concern myself with completing the target by the deadline date.

Maybe by not pressuring myself I’ll succeed at it more often again. I want to always finish the book that I start, instead of leaving it to be forgotten when the event is over. Some of my past projects I already plan to revisit, some of them I need to rewrite from scratch because I no  longer have my backups. Just as well, as the new versions won’t feel as clunky.

An Important Caveat

Note that I’m not bashing NaNoWriMo in the least. I’ve been a part of it since nearly its start (I think there were three before I began) and it can help an author to get the words out of their head – and  my view may change yet again, many times in fact– but for now this is what I’ll try, and see how it works.

“Don’t Get it Right. Just Get it Written.” James Thurber

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