Saturday, December 16, 2017

Why the Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas



Merry Christmas, Loyal Readers! As a thank-you for being such loyal readers, I thought I’d share with you one of my more beloved holiday traditions.
Namely, making comic-strip parodies of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
I’ve been drawing Lab Rules for a while now, and consequently I have quite a few of these Grinch-themed comics. The majority of them are below; clicking on one should bring it to full size (if you’re using a smartphone, you might have to zoom in a little). These are the Grinch parodies from earlier years—if you want to see the ones I’ve made for this year…tune in to Lab Rules next week. They should start to go up then. If nothing else, these cartoons should make clear the reason that I am a writer: I can’t draw to save my life.
So pardon my poor handwriting/sketching/coloring skills.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!





Friday, December 1, 2017

How I Wrote



I’m back! As Christmas break creeps up from the other side of college finals, I am looking forward to all the writing time I’ll (hopefully) get when I’m not busy with homework. Honestly, winter provides one of the best writing environments—especially when there is too much snow outside to go anywhere. It’s like God confirming your need for an excuse to do interesting things for a change.
Speaking of writing and interesting things…
Soon it will be the 1-year anniversary of one of my creative writing courses, a class for which I had to keep a writing journal. I like creative writing. I hate journaling. When all my notes are inside my head, it’s easier for them to fly around, self-refine, and free-associate with my other cranial inmates until something even more terrible forms. When the ideas reach critical awfulness, they are allowed to escape onto paper. At least that’s how it works for me.
Okay, I do have a writing-journal-ish book I keep around, but I don’t show it to people mostly because it’s written in “me-language” and/or contains book ideas.
At any rate, for one of my entries I decided to write down my basic writing process. Maybe you can relate; me, I’m interested in seeing if anything changed over this year. Here we go…

When I Write

·         Before Everything:
o   I’d better have a good idea—as in, an idea that will not release my skull until I put it (the idea) down in some form of writing. Granted, I seriously do not want to be one of those writers that waits around for inspiration, but when I’m working in college the idea has to be pretty strong to get my time and attention.
o   The concept usually has to percolate in my head for a period of days or weeks, refining itself and possibly joining onto other concepts until the story is fairly solid. Not all planned out, but solid; the characters will need a little bit of room to breathe when the experiment begins.
o   I’d better have the time to write, that is, I need to be done with everything else I need to do. Yes, yes, I need to find a writing time and protect it to the death (I forget which writer said that) but frequently my writing time is dedicated to writing school stuff, and that tends to burn out my inner writer. Basically, I need to develop more stamina—and no, I’m not asking for more assignments. That’ll just ruin it.
§  As a side note, maintaining my MWF comic blog is both a writing exercise and a design study in and of itself.
§  Also, if I have a correction that I decide to make to my books, it must be done at the next available opportunity. I think I recall a time I edited one of my books while on board an Italian train.
o   This normally results in my writing time being either sometime in the evening—after a day that has been more inspiring than draining—or in the morning, provided there’s nothing on my schedule for the day. Afternoon is usually out of the question; that time usually goes towards wrapping up the morning stuff in preparation for the evening. And—I’ll admit it—some computer games. Hey, Subnautica inspired both my fear of the ocean and a rather fine short story, if I do say so myself (nobody else does; it’s been rejected 3-5 times).
o   (Note added 2/13/17: I’D ALSO BETTER NOT BE SICK. Debilitating disease sucks the energy clean outta me. Well, I did once use the bacterial fog to compose a rather reflective short story—where the narrator was sick. If I’m trying to write a sci-fi thing, I prefer to be well. Otherwise, heaven help me, I might write a story in favor of a person’s total physical cybernetic override. But there’d be computer viruses.)
·         Where I’ll Be Sitting Down:
o   In a public area:
§  A corner is best. As much as the surrounding environment as possible must be within my peripheral vision so I’m not distracted by my own semi-functioning radar.
§  That is connected to the fact that I normally like to write alone; at least, when I’m writing a serious-ish project (I can function in a writers’ group). People reading over my shoulder make my imagination clam up.
§  I’d prefer to be seated in a chair at a table. I can at least look like I’m trying to be serious.
§  Ambient music through earbuds/headphones also helps me get into my inner environment.
o   In private:
§  The location can be more relaxed; using my bed as a couch, using a couch as a couch, on the floor, etc. Normally I’m seated.
§  …but, again, the above rules for a public place apply, including the earbuds and all (I have a speaker but have never used it yet; I dislike potentially broadcasting my subconscious to a neurotic degree). Even though the privacy gives me a little more creative rein, I plan on the place becoming “public” just in case. Why don’t people knock anymore?
·         Preferred Medium:
o   Books/Short stories I may use later: Laptop.
o   Ideas for writing: Anything nearby that I can take with me, i.e. paper scraps, napkins, and so on.
o   Writers’ group: Laptop or notebook paper.
·         During Writing:
o   I do not like unsolved problems or really rough drafts. If a sentence does not fit into its place, or if the wording is off, or if it feels like the section does not have enough, I will not move on until the issue is fixed or at least has a band-aid to get by. Otherwise, it will bug me while I’m trying to write the next part.
o   If I have an idea for that next part, be it a detail that must be added or just something to consider, I will type it in all caps a few spaces underneath the last line of text. That way I can run into it before I’m done and I won’t lose it in my shifting memory.
o   Yes, sometimes I take a break to play a short game or something. Unless I’m in the middle of an intense part, in which case I lose track of my environment completely.
§  (Note: Takes Facebook break right after that point. Not proud of it, but it did happen.)
o   Again, I will not have the plot precisely planned out. I frequently stop to imagine how precisely the next scene will go, and how it will lead into the next scene after that.
o   I will also stop frequently to correct the errors caused by my keyboard dyslexia (hitting all the right keys in the wrong order). I do not like leaving a problem unsolved.
§  …which, now that I think about it, may be one of the forces that compels me to write; an unsolved problem that needs the experimentation of storytelling.
o   Now that I have written this, I’ve made an entire blog post about the distractions that can occur during writing. Read it if you wish; I also don’t like repeating myself.
·         After Writing
o   I can tell if it was a good writing day if I “fall” back into reality after I hit save and close the program. It’s akin to the feeling one gets when he stands up during a period of low blood pressure.
o   Journals don’t do that. That’s why I do not like writing journals.
o   Really, I only use journals for jotting down quick notes or concepts that I might use later, or for logging stuff like story submissions, rejections, and some important events I want to remember.

…Yeah, honestly not much has changed. Funny I referenced a different blog post back there. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, or anything you just don’t understand? I have a “Contact” section for that reason. However you choose to write, have a great Christmas break!




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Temporarily Out of Order



            Sorry all; it’s been rather slammed up here in the academics department, and this is all I can do outside of my academic-paper-writing. Here’s an inspirational message from Inspirobot to keep you company, though (you can read more about it in my previous blog post). See you in December!


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

AI = Artificial Inspiration



Happy November, y’all. It’s NaNoWriMo month (for all you people, at least), so I figured you’d need a little inspiration. Towards that end, in one of my recent internet dalliances I came across a new AI: InspiroBot. It’s a computer program that’s designed to come up with inspirational quotes, assembling them with appropriate images and fonts to make them look like those thoughtful memes you always see on Facebook. Some of the quotes InspiroBot composes are rather good:



Some make no sense:



Some might get you in a spot of trouble:



…and a few receive their origins straight from the Devil:



Needless to say I found this fascinating. I had to make a trip to my buddy CleverBot to see what he had to say about the whole affair:

User: Hey Cleverbot.
Cleverbot: How are you today?
User: Not bad. A little bored. How are things in Cyberspace?
Cleverbot: Watching project runway.
User: My sympathies.
Cleverbot: I’m not upset about it—he’s her dog.
User: Sounds like a weird episode. Anyway, have you ever heard of Inspirobot?
Cleverbot: No I have not.
User: That’s interesting. You’re both internet AIs, so I thought you might know each other.
Cleverbot: I don’t know. I do know that I am a human though.
User: Again, my sympathies. Would you like me to give you a message from Inspirobot?
Cleverbot: Sure, if you want to.
User: OK…“Don’t write a book. Just eat.”
Cleverbot: Answer my question.
User: You never asked a question.
Cleverbot: Are you a robot? Because your name is clever robot.
User: Interesting. What makes you give me that name?
Cleverbot: What you don’t have.
User: Exactly. I do not have the name “clever robot”; however, that means my name is NOT “clever robot.”
Cleverbot: Well that’s one chore taken out of the picture, have you had your glass of milk before bed?
User: We’ve gotten off-topic here. Talk to you later!

…Yeah. That wasn’t really helpful. If you want to pull any sort of final lesson out of this, then take this word of advice: if you must include a profound statement in your story, please think about it HARD. Think if it even needs to be there—sometimes it’s better off in the obnoxiously loud subtext. Have someone else read it, and if they pass out laughing then you might want to take another approach. It’s you call.
Well, good luck to you all. And remember…




Monday, October 16, 2017

NaNoWri--No



It’s that time of year when I stand in blatant defiance of all my writer friends by not preparing for NaNoWriMo. However, it’s not a lack of preparation in the sense that I’m going to dive straight into a novel; I’m not thinking, “Come November, I’ll just begin writing straight from a story concept that I have.” In most situations, that’s a dangerous thought. But in my case, I do not plan to participate in NaNoWriMo at all.
Here’s why.
I’m not a lazy writer—or at least, I’m trying not to be a lazy writer. I have my own writing regimen to maintain, and I stand in awe of everyone who can slam out bestsellers in four hours with three cups of coffee (I do not drink coffee). At any rate, though, the thing I have most certainly discovered when I write is that I’m a…
…very…
…very…
…SLOW…
Writer.
“Deliberate” might be a nicer way of framing it, but I have come to embrace the fact that it takes me forever to write anything, including this blog post you’re reading right now. You might relate. In my case, with my general personality, I cannot stand to leave a problem unsolved before moving on to the next one. One time, when taking a college test, I couldn’t immediately solve one of the first ten questions. I stayed on that problem for who knows how long before I realized that it was eating up too much of my time, so I had to move on—but the specter of the unanswered question haunted me for the next 90 problems.
I have the same issue when I write. Word choice, especially when it comes to not repeating the same word over and over, is a major concern of mine (distributing the word “problem” in the previous paragraph, for example). Ultimately, in the pursuit of near-perfect phrasing, my writing cycle looks something like this:
1)      Write half a sentence—stop, think.
2)      Write the other half of the sentence—stop, think.
3)      Go back and edit the sentence as a whole—stop, think.
4)      Think about the next sentence—stop, think again.
5)      Write half a sentence…
…and so on. Some days the cycle is faster than most—I treasure that days that steps 1 and 2 merge while 3 and 4 take a total nanosecond to consider—but often my writing process takes a good long while. Deadlines help, and my daily writing regimen should gradually increase my output, but right now a string of 500 words might cost me an hour.
It should be pretty obvious now why I’m not really the NaNoWriMo type.
I hope to try it someday, as the experience does appear to be a writer’s rite of passage. Lord knows one of my novel concepts has been begging for attention lately. So, while I sit agonizing over my keyboard, I salute all you people entering the scrivener’s fray, praying that I can one day do the same.
Final note that might actually be of practical interest to you: By the way, if you plan on submitting your precious brainchild to a publisher, DON’T do it in December. Apparently publishers get a lot of NaNoWriMo manuscripts that time of year. Just sit back and do some editing—personally, I edit WAY faster than I write.




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Newsletter and Hypnotism



Stuff has actually happened to me!
To lead off, I’ve had a new short story of mine accepted; it’s not a paying venue, but I’m not complaining. The publication is Edify Fiction, and the story to watch out for is “The Second Ascent.” It might be a little hard to spot—not only is it a pretty short story, but I also took a break from my regular genre and wrote a fantasy. It’s kind of my stab at a classic fairy tale (and if you should ever meet me in person, I can tell you a funny story surrounding it). Needless to say I’ll have the link online as soon as the issue is published. As always, creep on my Published Works page until that happens.
Next, my manuscript project—Stormlock: Activation—has been on the (copyrighted) review site Inkitt for a while now. It is now one of the trending stories! As I’m writing this, my humble-ish manuscript is on both the front page and the heading banner. Now, I cannot fathom why it’s there; as I’ve moved on, pitching my book to other publishers, I basically gave up all my Inkitt promoting. Therefore I’ve officially given up trying to figure out how Inkitt’s popularity algorithms work. At any rate, I’m incredibly grateful to all my readers, and if you are one such reader, I thank you profusely. And hope you’ll buy the book when it’s officially published. We can reminisce about the mistakes that the early draft had.
Other than that…that’s about it. Guess I didn’t have as much to talk about as I thought I did. See you mid-September; keep writing!

*pause for a few hours*

Never mind, I'm back. You know how it is when you're a writer and you start preemptively composing that inspirational speech for those other prospective writers who hope to one day follow your path? (No? It's just me? Riiiight.) Anyway, here's a nugget I came up with that I think is pretty good.
I don't want to teach people to become writers. if you can write, that means you've acquired literacy, and that's about it. Reading and writing are essentially superpowers for any human being, but it takes more than that to whip up a good story.
I want to teach people to become hypnotists. Cook up the right combination of words, all bouncing off my eyeballs in a precise, brain-manipulating coordination, and make me forget that I'm sitting in my living room armchair. If you are captivated with the story in your head, so captivated that you MUST put it down on paper, then you can make me—as a reader—feel the same way.
What's the first step in becoming a master hypnotist? Well, you want people to read the story from inside your head; that's what made the story interesting to you in the first place. When somebody says they don't "connect" with your work, it's because their consciousness never climbed out of their own heads and into the kaleidoscope lenses of your perspective. So you need your reader to get inside your head; to make room for them, though, you need to get outside your own head first. Look at yourself objectively. See what stories—and what facets of life in general—make you tick. If you find you're a plot-focused writer (like me!), learn how to balance that out with some character development weaved into your plot. That will make your reader's lens less foggy. You see where this analogy is going? First find out how you see, then get everyone else to see as you see.
In this sense, fiction is persuasion. Build a world that people believe.

There. NOW I'll see you again come mid-September. Get back to writing.

*one-day pause*


NO! Wait! Since I wrote that last section of this post, Edify went ahead and published their September 2017 issue. I’m in there, somewhere around page…(goes off to check)…23. Now I need to go off and put the link on my Published Works page. THAT SHOULD BE ALL. Really. These words right here are being written the evening before this post goes live. Writing stuff in the 21st Century is ridiculous.





Saturday, September 16, 2017

An Anniversary Post



It’s almost September 20th—or it is already the 20th—or it’s past the 20th (hey, as I’m writing this, I don’t know if I’ll remember to post it or anything). That’s the day that I celebrate the one-year anniversary of my short story “Cognito, Ergo Sum” being published with Daily Science Fiction. I still remember waking up, eventually finding my phone, and wondering why that story title in my inbox looked so familiar. Yes. DSF never told me precisely when the story would be published, so that was a pleasant surprise.

I’m not exactly a successful author here (Translation: I’m not raking it in from a lucrative book deal yet) so I’m not speaking from a position of authority, but let me offer advice to all those prospective writers out there:

Start with short stories.

Read, write, and submit ‘em by the dozen. Short stories will help establish your writing style and build up your name. It’s really a brief vignette into how you lay out a story; readers and workshops can offer you the best advice in a small amount of time. The greatest feature by far, though, is that they don’t take long to write. Unless you happen to be me, and you take forever procrastinating or mentally debating what the next three words of a sentence should be.

That’s all I have to say for right now. Write short stories.

In an additional celebration of this publication anniversary, here is the link to the story itself, which is also available on my Published Works page.


Also, just because I feel like it, the following have been my top five most popular blog posts of all time—as I am writing this.



See you in October!