My Writing In 2014

I recap of my writing adventures in 2014.

Well 2014 wasn’t my greatest writing year ever, although compared to some years where I didn’t write anything I suppose it was still pretty good.

I started the year trying to revise the Sovereignty manuscript, which ended in miserable failure. After a lot of fiddling, I still couldn’t figure out the story I wanted to tell and basically realized I needed to start over. By June I had hit rock bottom, so to speak.

Then I tried writing something new in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. It started well, but then things got really crazy at work and it derailed everything. After August, I ended up with about ten thousand words of a short story called Moving Day, but it still needs work.

In September and October, my biggest writing accomplishment was a series of episode reviews of the television show Continuum.

Then came NaNoWriMo in November and things got somewhat back on track. Apparently I completely failed to blog about it, but I successfully completed 50,000 words to win the event, however I have not yet successfully finished the novel since I have only completed about 10,000 more words since November 30. The novel is a post-apocalyptic adventure, currently dubbed Raccoon Mountain. I am still plugging away on that manuscript, a few hundred words at a time, trying to find the story. (I started with little or no plan for it.)

And that’s where we are at the start of 2015. Depressingly no closer to sending manuscripts to publishers. But I feel like I’m zeroing in on “my process,” for whatever that’s worth.

Holiday Binge-Watching

Recent binge-watches include Broadchurch, Gracepoint, and The Borgias.

The holidays means sitting blankly in front of a television screen. My recent Netflix binge-watches include:

Broadchurch. BBC murder-mystery series starring David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) and also the guy who played Rory in Dr. Who. This is a gripping series of 8 episodes. Great, great acting.

Gracepoint. Of course, I then had to get a week-long trial of Hulu Plus* to watch the American version of the Broadchurch murder-mystery, which also stars David Tennant, using a different accent. (I actually thought this is what I was watching when I started Broadchurch, because I remember seeing ads for Gracepoint, but it quickly became apparent that everyone in Broadchurch had an accent.) Gracepoint is a decent series of 10 episodes with some slight but interesting changes from the original, but it’s nowhere near as good as the British version. If you have to pick one, definitely watch Broadchurch. (It was interesting to see that the American script had clearly been edited so that scenes and lines were much shorter.)

The Borgias. This series is basically a more scandalous version of Game of Thrones set in 1492, following the adventures of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, and his colorful family. It’s melodramatic at times but pretty good.. then again I’m always a sucker for period pieces.

* Hulu Plus is a terrible, terrible service.

The 100 First Impression

The 100 and the horrible, whiny teenagers in it.

I’ve just watched the first episode of The 100 on Netflix. Well, actually, I started writing this at about the 35:00 mark.

Is it wrong for me to want every single one of these whiny teenagers to die horribly? I mean, it’s not just that I don’t like any of them. It’s more of a deep-seeded loathing, a visceral hatred of everything about them and everything they stand for. I don’t just want them to die. I want them to die suffering, only lingering long enough for them to finally realize in their last moments–too late–just how awful they are as human beings and potential role models. They must, in the end, die knowing that it was the only just fate for them. Because if these whiny teenagers are the last hope for humanity, then I think we can all agree that it’s okay for humanity to die out. We should, in fact, celebrate the end of this breed of whiny teenager.

If you don’t know what The 100 is, it’s a show based on one of those ubiquitous Young Adult dystopian novels that were so rampant around the time of The Hunger Games, where every story had to be set in a bleak future apocalypse and every character had to fit neatly into a familiar high school cliche and also be in some sort of a love triangle. (Ruining the market for any other dystopian novels for years to come.) This particular story has our high school cliches (100 of them, get it?) landing on a post-nuclear-holocaust Earth after having grown up on a space station. You see, a nuclear holocaust wiped out everyone on Earth except a bunch of astronauts from different countries, who somehow glued all of their space stations together into one big space station and colony. Now the evil space station adults (who are dead set on making all teenagers’ lives miserable, as is required in Young Adult stories, except for the “cool mom” of course) need to reduce the population. So they decide to jettison 100 whiny teenagers (who for some reason all happen to be prisoners, because teenagers are are hoodlums and adults never do anything wrong) and send them to the planet to see if it’s still covered with radiation. Because it’s not like you can measure that from orbit or even see anything happening on the surface by, you know, looking out the window.

The plot holes in this show are big enough to drive a truck through, but still I would support the concept if not for this tiny problem of the entire cast of human guinea pigs being so incredibly repulsive to watch. They seem to think they are going to the prom instead of being forced to survive with no food and no shelter and possibly mutant monsters trying to kill them at every turn. But it’s okay because they can build a bonfire and party and those nasty adults can’t tell them what to do!

Still, I might see if I can pick up the book if it’s cheap. I like post-apocalyptic stories. Perhaps network executives injected all the whiny teenagers into the show to appeal to The CW’s audience.

Thoughts on Mr. Mercedes

I recently finished listening to Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

A while back I decided to cancel my subscription, because my income was decreasing. I had somewhere around eight credits saved up that I had to use before I could cancel, so I picked up a bunch of random audiobooks. One of them was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.

I pretty much like anything that Stephen King writes, so it’s no surprise that I liked it. But it was the first time I had ever listened to Stephen King read as an audiobook. (Actually that’s not true, but it was the first time I’d listened to a full-length King novel as an audiobook.)

Mr. Mercedes was very well-read by Will Patton. I greatly prefer it when actors read books instead of when “voiceover artists” read books. They put a lot more feeling behind the words, rather than simply enunciating them clearly.

This book illustrates exactly what I was trying to say in a previous post. Mr. Mercedes had no supernatural elements whatsoever. There’s simply no way it should be classified as “horror,” which is true for quite a lot of Stephen King books. But what is it? Popular fiction? Suspense? Thriller? It certainly wasn’t genre fiction. I suppose I would have to guess “suspense” since it was very … well, suspenseful.

I probably shouldn’t give away anything but it had one of the happiest endings I can ever remember seeing in a Stephen King book.

RE: The Leftovers, Season Finale

The season one finale of The Leftovers, not surprisingly, gave us no answers.

I should have known.

There were no explanations. No resolutions. No whys or wherefores. No way to tell if my theory was correct or not. The story just reached a convenient stopping place (sort of) and the season ended, all questions left up in the air. The only thing that we found out was what the Guilty Remnant had been up to.

It occurred to me that by leaving out an explanation for why the people disappeared, we the audience are left in the same position as the characters in the show. After all, they don’t know why the people disappeared either. Although I would swear that at some point (or points) during the season I was convinced that there was an explanation that someone knew. Maybe not someone in town, but somebody somewhere.

One other thing occurred to me after reading a couple of commentaries about the finale: I get the impression that the creators of the show (or rather, I suppose, the author of the book) was trying to put modern man into a situation where he’s confronted with something that is undeniably similar to a miracle of Biblical proportions. The audience was never shown The Departure on camera, so it’s impossible for us to guess what happened, but I suspect a supernatural rather than scientific explanation. The opening credits certainly implies a Biblical apocalypse.

I ruled out a scientific explanation, by the way, because of the evidence given to us, or lack thereof. We’ve not been told of any “pops” or disturbances in airflow which would occur if a person physically vanished and left a vacuum behind. There was no residue of any kind. The peoples’ clothes went with them, suggesting to me that there was some kind of intelligence behind the disappearances. (The body-snatchers knew how to grab a person and his clothes, but not the chair he was sitting on or any part of the floor he was standing on.) These things are pretty strong indicators of a supernatural explanation to me. If that weren’t enough, the scientists in the Congressional Hearing in the first episode concluded that they had no idea what happened–that all but rules out a natural phenomenon. Someone would have come up with a theory to explain the evidence if there had been any.

All of which is probably way too much over-thinking of the show. But since they didn’t provide any answers, I have to do for them.

The biggest thing that The Leftovers achieved was reminding me how much I miss the Ninth Doctor.

The Killing, Season Two

The Killing really should be regulated as a controlled substance.

The Killing really should be regulated as a controlled substance. It’s impossible to stop watching it.

I finished the second season, and you may or may not be happy to know that they do finally reveal the murderer, and it looks like you can walk away from the show after two seasons. Spoilers way down at the end of the post. (Not really, though. I don’t tell you whodunnit, but I do sort of rule out one person.)

They really punch you in the face with feels in the second season finale. Get your hankies ready. Continue reading “The Killing, Season Two”

The Killing, Season One

Why didn’t anyone warn me about this show?

Why didn’t anyone warn me about this show?

Don’t start watching The Killing unless you’re willing to put in the time to finish the entire thing in one sitting. Because it’s really addicting.

And in case you’re thinking you can get away with just watching one season at a time: The murder is not resolved at the end of the first season. The story just keeps right on going into the second season.

I’m writing this paragraph to avoid spoilers, but my full thoughts are way down below: I had an idea of who the murderer might be after four or five episodes, based on my award-winning strategy of “picking the least plausible person it could possibly be.” Through the whole first season I was more and more convinced I was going to be right, because they never showed anything that directly refuted my theory. Once, it was close, but I can think of a way to explain it. At least until they arrested that dude in the last episode of season one. But then some evidence surfaced that made me think my theory could still be plausible, so I’m sticking with it as I start watching season two.

In many ways, The Killing is a stereotypical cop show. It’s got the cop obsessed with finding the murderer at the expense of her family. It’s got the victim’s family coping with the loss of their daughter and the morbid depictions of how a victim’s body gets back to the family after the crime. It’s got the cop who went too far undercover and got hooked on drugs. It’s got the crusty police lieutenants. It’s got the city hall with their political agendas that are more important than the truth.

But somehow it’s still a compelling show.

Continue reading “The Killing, Season One”

Two Days In A Row

A new record for most days writing in a row!

I’ve written about 1200 words a day for two days in a row. That may not sound like much, but it makes me feel like a rock star.

I’m working on adding the middle part that goes between the beginning and ending of Moving Day. I couldn’t just leave it hanging the way it was. (Also I did some brainstorming and came up with some neat ideas for it.)

It’s sort of morphed from a science fiction story to… I don’t know… horror? But not the frightening kind of horror. It’s like the later-era Stephen King kind of horror that is really more of a plain story with some external supernatural forces that put characters into conflict, but it still gets labeled horror because he’s Stephen King. I’m not sure what you’d call that. “Fiction” I guess.

August Writing Update

An update for August, my first sabbatical month.

With August coming to an end I thought I would release another writing update. Being temporarily unemployed (which I prefer to think of as a short sabbatical), this is the first month in forever (aka. 2000-ish) where I have had nothing but time to write. So you would think that I would have written tons of stuff, particularly when I’ve had this ongoing crazy notion that I should someday get paid for writing.

Alas not so much.

Being unemployed isn’t as easy as you might think. First there is the problem of maintaining some kind of schedule. For me, this is fairly important, because I tend to flop around like a fish out of water if I don’t have a routine. I still have to eat, sleep, and occasionally take a shower, but without the structural certainty of a 9-to-5 job, I tend to forget about things like that while I’m focused on whatever I happen to be focused on.

I have to devote some time toward a backup plan in case someone doesn’t walk up and hand me ten million dollars. I have a finite amount of money, and it will run out one day, and I need a plan to deal with that, no matter how annoying the prospect might be. So I spend a portion of most days looking for boring old 9-to-5 jobs. And it takes a surprising amount of time to sift through a bunch of web sites.

I also spend time looking for part-time or freelance work that I can do from home, which would serve to extend the length of my sabbatical from 9-to-5 work. This also takes a surprising amount of time combing through web sites, sending emails, sending applications, setting up profiles, etc.

also have to build in some non-working down time. When you work from home, it is very easy to fall into a trap of working all the time. I’ve already experienced this in August. I’ll be busily tapping away at my keyboard, lost in what I’m doing, and then I’ll notice that my eyes are tired and my back hurts and it’s 10:00 at night. So I try not to do anything that uses creative energy before 8 am or after 6 pm. (He says, writing this paragraph at 6:41 pm.)

Despite all that, I’ve done some writing this month.

I sort-of wrapped up what was going to be my July novel Moving Day. I really like the first ~4000 words that I wrote at the beginning of July, and I like the final ~3000-word sort-of climax that I just wrote. The problem is that there is nothing in between the two. I suspect this story is destined to become a short story at or below 10,000 words. I just need to figure out some way to connect the beginning to the ending.

I wrote and continue to revise a series of non-fiction “re-watch” articles for the television show Continuum, which is currently my favorite genre show. As of now it is somewhere close to 15,000 words of material covering the first season, including screenshots. I sent a query to to see if they were interested in publishing it, but so far I haven’t heard anything back, which makes me think they aren’t interested. It was a terribly-written query upon reflection. Or maybe they’re just more into Under The Dome than real science fiction. Zing!

I have written a handful of blog posts here and elsewhere, of which this is one.

I’ve done a bit of work revising my Kubak Outpost manuscript, which I personally think is my strongest manuscript to date. Or at least it’s the one that I keep returning to think about. My revisions are focused on cutting down the number of points of view from five or six to two or three.

RE: The Leftovers, Episodes 8 and 9

I just finished watching episodes 8 and 9 of HBO’s The Leftovers, and something finally clicked. Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t going to watch more than 4 episodes, but I was intrigued by a television show (and a story) that does nothing but raise questions without ever answering them.

Oh, that crack I made about Lost? Turns out, Leftovers producer Damon Lindelof did write for Lost. No wonder!

Spoilers below if you haven’t seen the show yet. (I don’t recommend it, by the way. Unless the 10th and final episode of the season blows my mind, I just don’t get the point of this show.)

Continue reading “RE: The Leftovers, Episodes 8 and 9”