Categories
Writing

Writing Mindgames

Writing Mindgames

The past few weeks I’ve been pondering my brain. That sounds peculiar, but hear me out. Since “winning” NaNoWriMo last year and dedicating myself to my writing full force, I’ve managed to establish a writing habit and have been able to write, even if only some brainstorming notes, almost every day. What started me pondering my brain function was the fact that recently in preparing for a jury trial I simply could not write anything not related to my job as an assistant prosecutor. I tried. Despite coming home after long hours I tried, but couldn’t shift gears. Therefore, for the first time in over seven months I went a few consecutive days without being able to write. It bothered me mentally and physically. When I say I have a writing habit, I mean a deep driving need to write. I suppose it’s a healthy addiction at least.

What I’ve discovered over the last week is that writing is good for me and I do need to write. Working in the court system takes its toll despite what television and movies may tell you. Not all attorneys are alcoholics or vigilantes. However, the prevalence of mental health issues in the legal profession is a very real concern. Facing some of the things we have to deal with daily can impact a person if you let it. For me, I think focusing on my writing has become the best therapy available.

Writing fiction allows me to work toward and hopefully achieve a mental equilibrium. I have to admit it’s sometimes challenging to work on an appellate brief using legal reasoning and the side of my brain, then coming home and switching over to the right brain to create characters, dialog and plot story arcs. Alas, that’s why I need to write. I need to be able to balance the opposing forces between the hemispheres.

Categories
Theatre

Something Rotten!

Something Rotten!

I discovered Something Rotten! during the most recent Tony Awards broadcast.


I was a History major in college, and I focused on Medieval and Renaissance history. I immediately fell in love with this musical and purchased the Cast Album. I’ve been listening to quite a bit over the last few weeks.

Oh, how I wish I could get to New York to see this production in person!

I can’t help think of my Medieval History class in college at Capital University, long ago, in a . . . (I’ll stop there. Don’t want to owe Disney any royalties). Our magnificent professor, Kay Slocum, had never seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. Our class introduced her to it and convinced her to watch it on VHS (I said it was a long time ago!) in the media center of the university library. We had a great time and it made for a wonderful educational and bonding experience.

What’s not to love about the entire concept of Something Rotten! The cast album opens with Welcome to the Renaissance setting the premise of a musical in Renaissance England, the time of William Shakespeare, who also figures prominently in the storyline.

The Black Death always makes me laugh. (Not a phrase you hear, or get to say everyday) Will Power is a riot and Christian Borle’s Best Featured Actor Tony was well-deserved.  The entire cast album is just plain fun. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Categories
Influences Life Stuff

A Farewell to Kings

A Farewell to Kings

Rush Clockwork Angels Tour
Rush-Clockwork Angels Tour-Columbus, Ohio 2012

June 8, 2015 Rush played Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio opening the second leg of their R40 Tour marking their 40th Anniversary as a band. I was privileged to take my wife and two children and share a special evening with Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart, and Geddy Lee. Given the recent articles, interviews, and rumors, this is most likely the last major live tour Rush will undertake, so for me the evening was bittersweet at times.

I write this post as part review, part ode to the biggest musical influence in my life.

I’ve been following Rush since 1989 when a college buddy introduced me to the band. Once you hear these three masters play live your life changes, at least mine did. That first concert during the Presto tour hooked me for the rest of my life. Though I admittedly didn’t yet know the lyrics, and probably couldn’t understand most of them either given Geddy Lee’s high-pitched wail, there was magic in their music. Rush is the epitome of professional and they are truly masters in their craft.

For the past 26 years, I’ve not missed any Rush tour; I’ve seen at least one concert on each tour since 1989. Last night I overheard a guy behind me talking about the spiritual experience of watching “The Boys” live, and I couldn’t agree more.

Throughout college and the course of the last 26 years, Rush has provided a soundtrack for my life. My kids have grown up on Rush music. The Rush 40 concert was the third I’ve shared with my daughter, the second with my son, and they’re both under the age of 15. The guys sitting next to us complimented me on bringing my kids to share the experience, and there were quite a few families in attendance at that concert. Musically Rush reinvents itself every album they record. Lyrically, Neil Peart composes some of the richest poetry there is and the stories and philosophical thought packed into those words are all a part of me, and always will be. It’s impossible to fully express the effect Alex, Neil, and Geddy have had upon my life.

The Rush 40 concert was remarkable. The setlist, which travels back through time as a retrospective of their body of work is close to perfection. The only thing that could have improved upon what they played last night for me personally would have been the addition of at least one song from Hold Your Fire, but that’s a minor point. Hearing  Jacob’s Ladder, then an abbreviated version of Hemispheres and 2112 with Xanadu thrown in for good measure was a dream come true. If this is in fact the last time I get to see Rush perform live, they did not disappoint. Their performance last night was Rush in peak condition and they still sound better live than any band should ever have a right to sound.

Thank you Alex, Neil, and Geddy for your creativity, your professionalism, your work ethic, your sense of humor, and most of all for sharing your talents with me for all these years. I’ve learned many things from you three gentlemen, and I’ve been able to teach my children many things from your music, and your example as human beings.

“I hear their passionate music
Read the words
That touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct —
I wish I had that drive”

Mission from Hold Your Fire

Lyrics by Neil Peart

 

Categories
Writing

Revisions and Writing Resources

Revisions and Writing Resources

Volume I: The Dream of the Sphere is finished and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel on revisions at long last. After a very long haul, working through my lessons from Dave Farland’s Rewriting to Greatness, I’m finally on the last few passes, completing line-editing.

The first 7 chapters are complete out of 23. I’m pleased so far with my creation, and I can definitely say I have a better, stronger book now. With the help of a few readers and their input I’ve made several changes for the better. One major character was totally revamped from the ground up and I’m much happier with that character now. I added at least 10,000 words in revisions, several new characters sprang forth and I feel like my world is fuller and more detailed.

Throughout the process I’ve read, and reread several excellent books which have been invaluable and I would highly recommend to anyone:

I definitely prefer the actual writing process of building worlds, and crafting story to revisions and rewriting, but in the end, the revision process is crucial in making it all come together and I’ve learned a lot that I think will help me streamline the process in the future.

For now, I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on Dream of the Sphere, forwarding it to Dave Farland for his input and critique and moving toward submitting it to a publisher. Most of all, I’m looking forward to writing again, free from the yolk of revisions.

 

 

Categories
General Influences Life Stuff

Welcome to Nightvale!

Welcome to Nightvale!

 

Welcome to NightvaleEarlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the auspicious town Nightvale by way of Cincinnati. The wildly popular podcast is currently touring its live show “The Investigators”. Watching Cecil Baldwin was truly a treat. The man is a consummate acting professional. All the performers in this production were excellent performers and it was fun to see them in person, though, with the exception of Cecil, none looked like I imagine the characters they portray.

 

My only disappointment for the evening was the script itself. I think the writers tried way too hard to make this live show interactive and accessible. I can appreciate the accessibility issue. It’s understandable that they want to grow their audience and not alienate new listeners/viewers. I think they accomplished that goal. However, to me the problem was the story itself just tried to hard to involve the audience. The premise behind the podcast is a radio show. I don’t expect it to be an interactive experience, and I didn’t go to watch it live seeking an interactive experience. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy “The Investigators”.  Experiencing Nightvale live was a delight. The story was somewhat forgettable and didn’t advance, or add to Nightvale lore in any discernable way. That’s my disappointment.

 

The most intriguing part of Nightvale’s charm is the depth of mythology, setting, characters and description achieved with each episode. Followers of Welcome to Nightvale will readily tell you details about the lives of a multitude of characters. The minutiae is what makes Nightvale such fun. It’s easy to become lost in the lore and dream of picking up and diving into the weirdness. I just didn’t leave the theatre with any new epiphanies or friends from Nightvale.

 

Still, experiencing Nightvale live was well worth the two hour one-way trip and I would gladly give any new live shows a try in the future. Goodnight, Nightvale. Goodnight.

Categories
General Influences

Visions of The Avengers

Visions of The Avengers

I’m anxious to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, in a good way, and a bad way.  The Avengers was my favorite comic book growing up. It’s one of the first books I ever bought with my own money and started collecting.  I was thrilled with Joss Whedon’s take on my Avengers in the first film. It worked really well and Joss obviously “got it”. He maintained a lot of the chemistry and relationships that makes The Avengers special as a comic book.

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up with comic books as much as I’d like as an adult.  Time, money, and life interfered.  But, to me my Avengers will always hold a special place in my heart and mind regardless of whatever has been done to the title through the years.

VisionsNow, my favorite character in Marvel comics has always been Vision.  Thus, I’m having grave reservations about Avengers: Age of Ultron. I truly don’t want Vision and Scarlet Witch to be ruined. Vision has always represented an especially poignant look at our struggle to define our humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Vision has explored how we deal with love, life, loss, and everything in between. I was heartened by the Pinocchio references in the trailers. I’m hoping Joss still “gets it” and doesn’t muck up Vision. We’ll see. . . .

(A few hours later…)

Not a disappointment in the least. If anything, Vision didn’t have nearly enough screen time, but I think the new origin story Joss crafted fits in nicely with what Vision has always been and represented and it melds well with the MCU on screen currently. I was very pleased with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the movie. Again, a lot of potential for character development there. Another great Avengers movie.  Thank you Mr. Whedon, job well done!

Categories
Writing

Rewriting to Greatness

Rewriting to Greatness

Dave Farland
Dave Farland

I previously wrote that I was taking an online writing class, Writing Mastery I, with Dave Farland, aka Dave Wolverton. I’m proud to say that this afternoon I turned in my last two assignments for that class and now await Dave’s feedback. I can say completing this class has been invaluable to improving my skills as a writer and I can’t thank Dave enough for his tutelage.

Now, I’m moving on in the next phase of my plan to prepare the first book of my Fantasy Series The Sphere Saga to submit seeking a publisher. I’m comfortable with Dave Farland, and have learned a great deal from him. I’m embarking on a higher level online class with Dave called Rewriting to Greatness which is geared toward teaching authors the ins and outs of editing and revising their own work. My goal is to revise my book (The Dream of the Sphere) to make it the very best it can be in order to secure a publishing contract. I’m confident that with Dave’s guidance I’ll be able to develop the professional skills that will help me launch a successful career as a professional writer.

Categories
Writing

Beginnings

Beginnings

It’s official, I have now submitted a book to a publisher. I searched Writer’s Market 2015 and found a publisher I felt was compatible for my Children’s book: Blacktooth’s Treasure Chest. I may very well never hear back, but that’s not the purpose of this exercise. I’m thrilled to have finally fought past the terror of submitting.

More importantly, in the process I discovered and was able to define for myself my “Brand” as a writer:

“My goal as an author is to create an engaging and fun body of work to sustain a generation through their life as readers of Fantasy: from intelligent chapter books to sprawling epics.”

What George Lucas provided me with Star Wars is what I want to accomplish. Might as well think big! Our children need stories and myths to grow by. Star Wars, Harry Potter, both captured the hearts and imagination of a generation. I seek to create a body of work that will engage a young reader and carry them through a lifetime of immersive fantasy.

Part of my ambition is to appease my own drive to create. Part is repayment of a debt for all the great stories I’ve enjoyed, lived by, and shared with my kids. I want to make stories that encourage people to dream and also allow people to escape. Most importantly, I want to make readers think.

Here’s to a small step on that journey…

Categories
Writing

The Importance of Epic Fantasy

 

The Importance of Epic Fantasy

I recently read an essay by author Stephen R. Donaldson about Epic Fantasy which was quite thought-provoking:  Stephen R. Donaldson: Epic Fantasy: Necessary Literature.

A few excerpts from that article, along with some of my own thoughts:

If we take it as given (I do) that the underlying purpose of literature is to shed light on the essential conundrums of being human (“Why are we here?” “What is the meaning of life?” “If it’s all meaningless, why do we care about anything?” “Why are we all so dissatisfied?” “Is there a God?” “Can there be a God?” “What is our relationship—if any—with the world in which we live?”), fantasy is the literature of the irrational, the transcendent, the spiritual. It is the literature that dares to confront those facets of being human that seem at odds—sometimes wildly at odds—with our mundane waking lives. And it’s vital.

Couldn’t agree more.  This is one of the primary reasons I have always been enthralled with reading fantasy literature.  For the same reasons, the important impact Fantasy can have on our youth is one of the main reasons I tend to write Fantasy, more so than anything else.

“Contemporary fantasy—even in its most cynical, post-modern guises—is the literature of reintegration because it both explores and accepts every dimension of what being human means, every natural language that humankind speaks (I mean both the language of critical intelligence and the language of magic and monsters, which can be seen as the language of religion). It expresses itself in both the language of alienation and the language of affirmation. That alone makes us more fully human, more fully ourselves, than we would be without it. It imagines possibilities for us that may seem incredible until they’ve been experienced.”

This passage in particular is important to me.  I’m fascinated with religion, spirituality, and faith, and themes centering around those things always bubble to the surface in my writing, intentional or not.  Donaldson is right on point.  Fantasy allows me as a writer to delve into those concepts deeper, giving perhaps less offense, and possibly even more insight than if I were writing straight fiction.  People avoid discussing politics and religion with friends and family at times for a reason.  Emotion gets in the way of such debates and prevents logical discussion and thought.

If modern fantasy and especially epic fantasy serve any function at all (I mean any function that we haven’t already seen beaten to death in our literature), it lies in the ability to dramatize—to demonstrate—reintegration. In a “nightmare world” ruled by “alienation and nausea, the quest for identity, and the comic doomsday vision,” what could be more necessary?

Fantasy and genre fiction in general allows us to tell stories that resonate back through our collective conscience.  I suppose fiction does that in general, but to me, fantasy allows for deeper immersion.  It’s much easier for me as a reader to become absorbed in the story, characters, and setting of a fantasy, than general fiction.  Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth analyzes it the best in my mind.  At our very core, we share an interconnectedness to other people and the strongest connections tend to be accomplished through our stories.  Be it, literature, song lyrics, movies, or television, through Story our bonds as human beings are formed from a very early age.  To my mind, fantasy forges the most powerful of those connections.

The success of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films and the surge of popularity for Hero tales over the last decade is a clear indicator that our society is in great need of epic fantasy.

Categories
Writing

Writers of the Future, Part II

Writers of the Future, Part II

Well, I just hit the submit button on my first writing competition.  This is a big first step toward establishing a writing career.  Have to say it would be nice to win, but the fact that I committed myself to writing the story and submitting it is already a major triumph.  Doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping my fingers crossed though.

I’ve heard some writers theorize you don’t really hit your stride and start gaining polish and momentum as a writer until you’ve written at least 1 million words.  Chalk up another 17K toward that checkpoint!  Wish me luck.