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Archive for April, 2011

Good Books: Smoke and Mirrors & Fragile Things

April 22, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been having some writers block on my novel recently. I’ve been working on the first draft for nearly five months at this point, writing almost every day, and it’s gotten to the point where everything I’m writing seems forced. Part of it is stress I guess, but mostly I think that I’ve been working on it so long that it’s hard to get immersed in it and hard to ignore the sense that everything I’m writing is crap. Most people who have to write anything fall into this trap every once in a while. It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before, but it is still annoying. So I did what I usually do when I’m in this situation. I read something I enjoy to relax my mind for a few days and to remind myself what good writing looks like.

The two books I turned to in this situation are actually two collections of short stories by Neil Gaiman, Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things. I’ve always loved short stories and Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers, so it’s a no-brainer I enjoy these collections. And I’m glad I did because they do a good job of showing well-done storytelling and interesting concepts that really helped restart my brain.

Neil Gaiman, in case you don’t know, is the writer of the popular Sandman comic series, as well as many popular books such as American Gods and Coraline. I enjoy almost everything he’s written, but oddly enough I think his short stories are what I enjoy the most. Don’t get me wrong, all of his novels are fantastic, but I think his short stories play more to Neil Gaiman’s strengths. Neil Gaiman clearly has a very robust imagination and can build stories on pretty interesting concepts (one of my favorite short stories in Smoke & Mirrors, for example, has a fantastic concept: a detective story… in Heaven. With angels). A lot of his short stories pretty much allow him to showcase these concepts in an interesting way with believable characters, without having to introduce other elements that distract from the main purpose of the story.

I think one of Gaiman’s biggest strengths as a story teller is his skill at being able to “show, not tell,” and his short stories make that a lot clearer. The majority of Gaiman’s stories in general contain very little exposition. He’s very good at showing the reader what is going on without having to explain it and very skilled at leaving stuff to the reader’s imagination without it being frustrating or disappointing the reader. Almost all of his short stories carry this to some extent, so if you’re a writer, its very enjoyable his stories just to see how he’s able to pull that off.

And, just to put it simply, they’re all very good stories. There are some stories in both collections I feel are a bit weaker than others, but there are none that I outright dislike. I do have a few favorites though. In Smoke & Mirrors, my favorite stories are “Murder Mysteries”, the detective story I already mentioned above (which is probably the best story in both collections that shows Gaiman being able to show things without explaining them), and “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale,” a darkly humorous story about a man who tries to hire a hitman and is convinced to buy assassinations in bulk. In Fragile Things, my favorite story is “How to Talk to Girls a Parties”. The basic plot of the story isn’t that complex (two young guys go to talk to chicks and find out that all the girls are humanoid aliens) but the character interaction is solid and the background on the characters is so interesting that it leaves you thinking about them for a while. While those are my favorites, each story is well done and hints at a much larger world than what is shown. I think the best short stories are the kind that leave you wanting more, to see another window into that world or into the characters lives to find out what happened, and Gaiman is a master of that.

I can safely say that reading these books helped me out of my writing funk and I don’t think anyone should miss out on them. If you are a fan of fantasy or horror, pick these collections up.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Wait, People Read My Blog Now?!

April 18, 2011 5 comments

Hey guys.

So I was checking the stats for my blog yesterday when I noticed an irregularity in the page view data. Take a look at this scientific chart of my page views to see if you can spot any change.

Red arrows and bar graphs mean it's scientific

It was a bit surprising to me to say the least. Upon further investigation, I found out Chad Rocco,  the creator of Familiar Faces, linked me on his Deviantart page after seeing my post about his show earlier this year. I thought that was very cool of him and I was flattered that he liked my post about his show. I never expected him to even notice my post about his show, let alone enjoy my blog as a whole, so I am very grateful for that. Thanks CR!

It is pretty encouraging to know people are actually, you know, looking at the stuff I post. I never really set out expecting this to be a popular blog, outside of my group of friends and maybe a few other people. To be honest, up until now, I had basically operated under the assumption that this blog was a slightly high tech version of talking to myself. Considering I’ve always wanted to be a writer (and am currently preparing to try my hand at self-publishing), it is encouraging that there are at least a few people who read this blog and are interested in what I have to say.

So I suppose I’ll try to be a bit more regular about updating than I have been. I consume enough media that I have plenty of stuff to talk about. I’ve already got of bunch of ideas. So I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for reading and I hope I’ll be able to hold your interest from hear on in. Thanks guys.

It’s Good to Have Friends

So sometimes you’re helped out in ways you don’t really expect.

Since my last post, I’ve been considering putting one of my short stories on Amazon’s self-publishing platform and selling it for 99 cents a download. I’ve been trying to send this short story to different publications for months now, but it hadn’t been accepted. The story is called “Speedster,” which is sort of a dark superhero story about a normal girl whose brother is wanted for murder and is addicted to a drug that gives the user superhuman speed. It takes place in a world where using something that gives you superpowers is not only frowned upon by almost everyone, but also dangerous and addictive to the user. I really liked the story and thankfully so did most of the beta readers, so I thought this would be a good way to put it out there and see how well it would do.

I used to avoid letting anyone but my closest friends know I write a lot, which admittedly doesn’t make a lot of sense since my whole goal in life it to have a lot of people read and enjoy my stories. I’ve been trying to be more open about it to hopefully have more people read my work once I make it available for people. So I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking if people would be interested in a story I put out. The first person to respond was Mike, one of my managers at work. He was very supportive about putting the story on Amazon and seemed interested in the idea. It was pretty encouraging on its own, but what I didn’t expect was what happened the next day.

The next day, both Mike and I happened to be working and, unbeknownst to me, Mike let a lot of people at work know about what I was doing. Normally this would be the kind of thing I’d feel embarrassed about, but this wasn’t the case. I really didn’t expect the reaction I got. Pretty much everyone in the store who heard about it was asking me what the story was about and all seemed very supportive. Most of them said they would download it once I put it out. As an author who has never been published so far, this was very encouraging. It was honestly touching. I was secretly afraid that once I published the short story, nobody would buy it or care. Now at least I know quite a few of the people I work with will read it.

So, if anyone from my work is reading this, I just want to thank you guys for the reaction. Especially Mike for helping spread the word the way he did.

I want to return the favor a bit. Mike is the front man for a band called Mikey Rukus. Its actually a pretty badass band. They’ve done a bunch of custom entrance music for mixed martial arts fighters and lots of other songs as well. You can check out his songs for free on his soundclick page, but if you enjoy it, I do urge you to purchase his music as well. So yeah, check it out. It’s all good stuff.

Anyway, I’ll keep you guys posted for when I roll out the short story on Amazon. Right now I’m working with one of my friends to get cover art for it, so I’m hoping to be able to get that straightened out very soon. As soon as its ready, I’ll be sure to let all you guys know. Thanks again for all the support.