To Skyfall or Not

Gamer Boy talked me into going to see Skyfall on Sunday night. He’d heard good things. I tried to keep my expectations very low, in spite of the mostly good things I’d heard about the movie. Always a good idea with any film considering how good Hollywood is at producing mediocre content these days.

It was surprisingly good.

I say ‘surprisingly’, because I wasn’t impressed with the last two Bond movies.

Casino Royale had a lot of pacing issues for me. It was the movie that wouldn’t end. Too much tension bleed off between action sequences gave the impression of, oh hey, that was the end of the movie, we’re just wrapping up now. Only it wasn’t, and we weren’t. When it finally did end, it was a relief. And I didn’t really buy the terrorist banker as the villain—never quite worked for me. And no Q.

Quantum of Solace, in spite of the cool title, didn’t work any better. In fact, while I’ve probably seen the entire movie, I still haven’t managed it in one sitting. My main problem might be that it was a direct sequel to Casino Royale, picking up thirty seconds or so after the first Craig film ended. No, scratch that. My main problem is that the writing seemed rushed and choppy without a lot of attention to detail beyond getting to the next action sequence. Craig brought it, but could only work with the material he had. And still no Q.

Skyfall, on the other paw, has pacing, writing, characters, acting, and Q. Not the Q you’re expecting, of course, but it’s an interesting transition. I suspect Craig is only going to get one more Bond movie, especially if there’s another four-year hiatus, which may be too bad because he really came into the character in this film. I hope he gets a great deal more work in between.

The movie is an interesting transition in a lot of ways, tying things together and setting other things up for possible future stories. Maybe the four-year break between films helped work things out so the production company could get all of their ducks and get everything right. But let’s do it a little faster this time, shall we?

I’d really like to see a new film in the franchise for the 60th anniversary next year, but that’s only 5 months away and the days are long gone when the big companies can make a big film in less than a year. Even two years is a huge stretch anymore. April 13th is pretty much impossible.

Still, Skyfall didn’t disappoint me, which is always a nice way to come out of the theatre, so I’ll give it a couple of thumbs up and hope it’s less than four years before the next film.

Be well, everyone.

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But If You’re Reading This…

You’re not going to get many blog posts that have anything to do with my writing. If those interest you, please come see me at lanceschonberg.com which is the new home for my creative endeavours in the literary arts.

But don’t despair! This blog isn’t going anywhere and I will continue posting here. The Year of Celebration still needs a home (not that I’m planning to write a post every single day, but there will certainly be some stand out days that deserve one), and I have a lot of other interests and things going on in my life. Facebook and Twitter are both awesome, but don’t cover the range of expression a lot of us need.

No, the Ninja isn’t going anywhere. There are still too many new things to try and too many new experiences to, um, experience. Lots of plans for the new year and beyond. The experience here will still be pretty eclectic, but will include a lot less about my writing career and activities. Which is okay, because there’s more to anyone than just one thing.

Be well, everyone.

It’s Always a Good Day to be Published

Whatever else might happen, it’s an awesome day when a contract shows up in your inbox because someone wants to publish one of your stories.

I’m not a big needer of public recognition (although it’s nice sometimes) and individual rejections don’t bother me all that much (although a big pile of them in a short period of time can be a little frustrating), but when a story comes back as one that someone actually likes enough to pay you for, that’s pretty cool.

“Mission Log, Day 67” will be appearing in the Kazka Press e-anthology At Year’s End: SFF Holiday Stories. My story is a short SF piece that I will not spoil here, but that I think works pretty well (and an editor agrees with me), and will appear in the collection with 20 other speculative fiction holiday pieces, all coming in at 500 words or less. At Year’s End will be released on December 9th, just in time for all of those year-end celebrations.

Now, I just have to convince a balky printer that it’s okay to let me have a hard copy of the contract.

The Year of Celebration

So sometimes life sucks. Believe me, I know. Stuff happens, shit happens, life happens. I had a “nice”, long period where a lot of little and medium sized things built up. Throw in a couple of big things and I was not having a good time for about a year and a half.

Took me a while to come completely back to myself again, but these days I feel pretty good. Human again. Me again.

I’m at least six months on the far side of my funk, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to ever slip that far away from myself again. Whatever is going on, there are always things to balance, or should be, always things to celebrate.

So I am declaring 2013 to be The Year of Celebration. Every day is a holiday or a celebration day somewhere, and there are numerous days that ought to be from a variety of standpoints. I’m going to pick 365 of them and have a great year whether the universe likes it or not. (And experience tells me the universe would have a hard time caring less how I feel about things.)

Some of them will be standards recognized by most people, things like Christmas, New Years, Halloween, and so on.

Some of them will be personal, family birthdays and anniversaries and so on.

Some of them will be important days in the geek pantheon, examples including Towel Day, Pi Day, and Darwin Day.

Some of them will be modern constructs I find entertaining. Talk Like a Pirate Day comes to mind. So does Something on a Stick Day.

When all else fails, I’ll make something up that appeals to me on some level. Chimps in Space Day, for example.

A bit of research and a bit of creativity, and I’ve got 227 days covered off so far. I’m sure I can manage the remaining 138 without too much trouble.

So this is not to say that I’m going to have a party every day next year. Not only would I get nothing else done, I don’t have that kind of stamina. I just thought it would be fun to have a special reason each day to say, “Today is cool because _____.” I’ll torture my friends and family and probably announce each day on Twitter, but most of the time the holiday will just serve to help me be in a good mood, I think. And that’s okay.

Prepare to celebrate.

The Green Struggle

“Carlos woke blindfolded, gagged, wrists and ankles wrapped in duct tape, and with the taste of dryer sheets in his mouth.”

It’s an awesome opening line, isn’t it? At least I think so, and I got a compliment on Twitter plus a DM that said it was attention getting. So yeah, it’s an awesome opening line.

The problem is that it leads into a story that’s going to be very linear and predictable if I write it as I’ve rough plotted it out. It’s supposed to be an idea for a story submission to the upcoming “Urban Green Man” anthology, but I’m not feeling a lot of originality in the story I’ve worked out.

My second attempt at a story for this anthology was going to be near future fantasy and include a robot and a swarm of invasive wasps. Has some promise, but the guidelines specifically say no SF, which doesn’t necessarily leave out the robot, but why take the chances. Never mind that I could see several ways to resolve the immediate problem without resorting to any fantastic elements, much less some version of the Green Man.

More reading on the Green Man mythos and some story research. I’ve got the spark of a new idea for the tale, but need to see if I can work it into something both interesting and engaging.

You might ask why I’m so stressed about one story or why I can’t just let it go and move myself mentally to the next project. It’s only 3.5 cents per word (but yes, that’s more than I’ve yet been paid for a story) and there are a lot of other things I want to write. Well, there’s a complicated, multi-layer answer to that, but it boils down to:

  1. I met one of the editors at World Fantasy and told her I was going to.
  2. I set it to myself as a challenge and I’m not willing to walk away until and unless I’ve failed to meet it.

My job here is to write a damned good story and send it in. After that, I’ve done what I can and it will be up to the editors to decide if the story fits. Either way, I refuse to turn in something that isn’t the best story I could have produced.

Yeah, okay. So maybe I’m being silly or hard on myself, but maybe I’m just being a writer. Either way, I’m behind where I wanted to be, but that’s a challenge on its own.

It’s Gotta Rock

So I’ve been watching a lot of lectures and presentations lately about the art of storytelling and story structure and creativity and, and, and… well, I’ve been watching a lot of lectures and presentations lately. Why? Well, I’m still thinking about rejection letters (see this post) and how, apparently, my stories are consistently well written, but I’m still missing something.

Watching all of this video, I’m frequently running into the Henry Miller quote, “You have to write a million words before you find your voice as a writer.” Because I’m a genre fiction writer, I also keep coming you to the David Gerrold version, “Your first million words are for practice. They don’t count. Remember that.”

A million words. Specifically, your first million, more or less, is what it will take to really learn the craft. Well, obsessed with numbers as I am, I have writing logs that go back to when I first started to get serious about writing, on 15 August 2007. Totalling things up and counting new words only, I broke the million barrier sometime in May of 2011. I say sometime as for a while, I didn’t count blogging as writing, so the number is a bit muddy. Regardless, I’m hovering around a million and a quarter right now, so I’ve apparently put in the work to get good at the craft of writing.

And I’d like to think that’s true. Aside from all of the “well written” rejection notices, I think my prose is pretty solid. I’m ruthless in chopping out unneeded words and careful at choosing the needed ones. I can set the scene and I engage more senses than just eyesight and I’ve gotten rid of ‘that’, dialogue tags, and most instances of the verb ‘to be’. Over the past five years, I think I’ve found my own voice in writing, and that’s a good thing.

But I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Sprinkled through those rejections are the occasional comments like “too linear”, “predictable”, “didn’t quite work for me”. Not all the time, but often enough that they’re worth looking at as a whole. And, looking carefully and critically at the stories they were applied to, and a number of others, sometimes I have to agree.

The conclusion: I’m not where I want to be as a storyteller yet.

Sometimes I am. Sometimes I really nail it and sometimes when I do, I can feel it before I’ve finished the first draft. Sometimes I have to beat the story into shape. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much beating and polishing and editing I do. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well written it is. Sometimes the story just isn’t there or isn’t right.

That’s what I need to work on.

Consistency is key. So is hard work. I’m not afraid of the latter so I need to apply that fearlessness to the former.

I had a word count goal in mind for 2013. It was solid, and a good stretch, but not one I haven’t managed before, but I’m going to erase it from the 2013 Goals list and focus on stories rather than words. Each and every story I write, whatever the length, needs to absolutely rock.

That’s the goal.

The Three Year Plan, Year One

So I’ve been scheming and plotting for a while, developing an approach to getting published. While I’ve mostly been leaning towards the indie publishing plan lately, I’m going to somewhat divide my efforts

The Year One Plan looks something like this:

 

Part 1: Short Fiction

Short story submissions will continue. Since the 1st of October this year, when I really started submitting again after a long drought, I’ve put 38 submissions in inboxes of various magazines and anthologies. I’ve so far had 8 rejections, three of which offered some specific reasoning, and the rest are outstanding. When a rejection comes back, the story gets added to the bottom of the list of things to go out (I haven’t caught up yet, and it’s going to be a while). My new motto: keep them out looking for homes.

There will also be new short fiction written, of the speculative variety. I anticipate most of it being either SF or Fantasy, with maybe a little Horror thrown in. These will join the ranks of stories looking for homes.

 

Part 2: Indie Publishing and Podcasting

There will be independent publishing. I have four things that I intend to publish in 2013 and I’ll say on my own, but I will be seeking help for some tasks and particularly in number 4. These are in order and while I have timelines, I’m not going to quote them here as I need to be able to adjust things based on life, the real world, and sudden changes in situations.

  1. “Thorvald’s Wyrd”. Inspired by some of my readings in Norse mythology, I originally serialized this 13,000 word novelette on my blog and have no intention of taking it down. I have, however, had several people ask me why it isn’t an e-book so they can have the whole thing in one place. Since it needs to be an e-book, it should probably have a print version as well. This needs both cover art and a bit of interior illustration.
  2. “Turn the World Around” is an alien invasion story, sort of, and partly inspired by the Harry Belafonte song of the same title, as performed on The Muppet Show when I was a kid. A 35,000 word novella, or short novel depending on whose guidelines you’re looking at.
  3. Small Realities will be a grand experiment. Tentatively on the 15th of March, June, September, and December, there will be a 30-ish thousand world short story collection. Yes, four of them, each containing probably 5-8 stories depending on length. Think of it as a quarterly magazine showcasing my short fiction. Small Realities may contain only science fiction stories. I’m debating that as SF shorts are only about 55% of what I have available by word count.
  4. “Where the Water Tastes Funny” is a 6,000 word short story I wrote for my daughters and that they’ve pressured me to share with the world. At the moment, I want this to be an illustrated book, which necessitates finding an illustrator, something I’ll have to figure out how to go about.

The intent is for projects 1-3 above to all exist as podcasts as well. “Thorvald’s Wyrd” is already recorded, but needs to be edited. Then there’s theme music and organization, and so on.

Speaking of podcasting, I also hope to launch the “Adventures of Writing Dad” very soon. Across Fan Expo, Montreal Comic Con, and World Fantasy, I recorded a lot of panels and Q&A sessions. These ought to be shared, don’t you think?

 

Part 3: Traditional Publishing, Maybe

I have three things I’m going to try shopping around this year.

  1. Graceland, a collection of 11 science fiction stories inspired by the songs of Paul Simon’s Graceland album, ranging in length from a little over 4,000 words to a little over 17,000.
  2. Heroes Inc started out as my attempt to write a superhero story with no actual super powers involved for anyone. That’s the one thing that’s stayed consistent through the entire process.
  3. Skip to My Luu is a silly working title that’s somehow still stuck through every draft of the story. Not-too-distant future SF, though I never actually give a year overtly, it follows a group of six just graduated from college students who cobble together the will and ability to go into business asteroid prospecting. At least, that’s how it starts out.

For Graceland, I’m in the process of researching potential publishers and presses now. Heroes Inc and Skip to My Luu both should have access to Beta Readers first as I’m sure there are holes in them I’m just not seeing. In each case, I’m going to try shopping them around for not less than six months, but probably not much more, either.

For those of you with an idea of how publishing works, doesn’t seem like very long. The catch is that I’m only going to look at small presses. While I don’t feel (as some do) that the collapse of traditional publishing is imminent, I do feel that until the big publishers adapt to the new realities of publishing, most of them don’t bring as much to the table as they used to. Some are farther along the road to change than others, but it seems like a lot of them are still playing ostrich with the chain bookstores. The small presses are far more flexible and adaptable

And what happens if I break the six month mark without a nibble? I’ll cross each of those bridges as I come to them, but I can certainly see going the indie route for all three.

 

Part 4: New Novel-Length Fiction

Because if I hope to publish novels, I need to keep writing them. I’m planning two first drafts for 2013.

  1. Tashiik Dreams is a (probably) YA Science Fiction novel that I’m projecting at being in the neighbourhood of 60,000 words.
  2. Becoming Human, an ‘alien among us’ story with what I hope is a bit of a twist, that, from what I have in my head, feels like a 75-85,000 word tale. Also science fiction.

I’ve also got the first major Fantasy project in mind, though I don’t expect to start it until the very end of the year, or even January 2014. And I say major, because I think it’s a trilogy. Working overall title is “The Godhead” and each of the three books will probably come in at over 125k, edited and polished.

 

Part 5: Non Writing Tasks

You can read that header a lot of ways, including business and contacts, networking, and platform building. Pick your jargon of choice. I’m thinking about it as creating a consistent presence for myself.

  1. Social Networking. I need to get better at this and by better, I mostly mean more consistent. I’m on Twitter daily, if some days more than others, and I’m starting to get better with my Facebook author page. But I neglect Google+ and probably shouldn’t, and I’m struggling with Good Reads which needs to change.
  2. Web Site. This is already in progress (see my post on BuWeSiMo). I should probably lump my Amazon author page in here.
  3. Conventions and Conferences. On the heels of World Fantasy, I’m planning two for 2013: Ad Astra in Toronto in the spring, and Can-Con in Ottawa in the fall. Both are about the same distance away for me. I’m also seriously considering World Fantasy 2014 in DC, but that’s part of Year Two.
  4. Business cards. I really felt the lack of these at World Fantasy. It seemed like everyone but me had them, published or not, and considering you can do them fairly inexpensively, it was almost neglectful of me not to have them.
  5. Book Marks, targeted by whatever I’ve published recently. I’m debating these as they’re much more expensive than business cards. Maybe a new batch of business cards for each major publishing project? Research required.
  6. T-shirts. Not to sell, but to where to conventions and other writerly gatherings. You can do a lot for not much money these days. Gotta love mass customization.

So that’s all of the basic components for 2013. Yes, it’s a lot. Yes, it’s ambitious. But it’s a plan and I’ll modify to suit as the universe unfolds.