There’s Nothing Like a Story That You’re Excited to Write

One of my main philosophies has been that if you’re excited about writing a story, then your readers will be excited to read it.
I have to believe that novelists and writers of the various types of fiction do what they do because they love the idea of creating the story that they would want to read.

Anne Rice did it with her Beauty trilogy. She saw something lacking in the erotica that was available and she wrote the stories she wanted to read. I have been inspired by her philosophy in every way except for writing erotica.

Who knows, though? Time will tell.

So if it seems that I am in a blogging slump, it is only because I am in a creative spurt that I’m in no rush to see die out.

 

I Finally Responded To My Dreams

I wrote and finished a short story yesterday. It could probably use some editing, but in the meantime, it is the story that I will read at the open mic on Wednesday, February 3rd, or the 10th.

It’s a nice short and sweet piece (everyone dies, so it depends on how loosely you define “sweet”) but no, you will not get to read it until after I have done the open mic. I just want the responses to it to be organic and the more it circulates online (Even if I only e-mail it to one or two people) the more spoiled it will be.

Of all places, I learned this concept from Stephen King. In Salem’s Lot, the main character reflects on how telling too many people about your story, or talking about it to any level of excess, can really kill it. I have learned this lesson a few times and I’m finally learning to implement it.

So keep an eye on the blog and I will definitely be doing a video of this reading.

Same Page Media Reviews: Dual Survival, Long Way Home –

We pick up where we left off in Fire and Ice.

Grady and Bill are still in the cave, doing their best to get some sleep through the night after two failed attempts at getting a fire going. Bill was rather upset with himself over the inability to cash on in the check that he had written on the first night and the first half of this second episode centers on his trying to regain the trust of his partner.

We definitely see more of Bill’s spiritual side in this episode. After the enormous boost gained when they find a clean spring in a river that would otherwise be too dangerous to drink from (being that it’s in the path of a recent lava flow) Bill once again manages to convince Grady that they need to try and get a fire going. The main motivator here is that they have also discovered signs of wild pigs.

Bill goes the extra mile once again to try and get a fire going, only this time, the conditions are just right. He pulls it off and we are treated to the first real show of the major differences between these two men. Bill is moved to tears by the results of his efforts and it spooks Grady a bit, which is understandable when you are in a survival situation with someone that you barely know.

But I understand Bill’s position more than you might think. While my life has rarely been on the line to the same extent, I know what it is like to be desperate. You spend a night walking 20 miles along a rural highway when it’s near pitch black, pouring out, thunder and lightening, and no one exactly tripping over themselves to see if you need help, and you bet that you are going to be grateful to whatever fates guide the universe when you manage to find yourself safe at home by the end of it. And that was along a stretch of what was supposed to be civilization. So I imagine that if I were to manage to get a fire going with the bare minimum of resources that Bill had to work with, I would be just as emotional and just as grateful.

The bond between the two survivalists grows stronger with the successful killing of a wild pig. Although there is definitely a long way to go in terms of what these men can teach us. For example, so far, it seems that Bill has been the most persuasive when it comes to the tough decisions, and he has had at least a 0-1 success rate in those moments. But Grady does have the military background and the by-the-numbers mentality, that will at some point, have to take priority over the spiritualism. And I’m looking forward to seeing how the relationship will play out when that day comes.

The Alpha Reads: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

The theme of this week is the concept of being a true fan. This time I am focusing on Neil Gaiman, an artist that I really should have been following from day one, because I love his writing. But I’ve been exposed to his work in the form of screen adaptations (Stardust, Mirrormask) and through the literary adaptations of his graphic novels, written by other writers but set in his universe.

I’ve never been someone who goes with the crowd. There’s a reason I have an entire section of reviews called the Come Latelies. That’s because if I enjoy something, I do it in my own time, and not just because six billion other people think it’s cool. Neil Gaiman is one of those people who I have always heard about, but never really got around to fully immersing myself with his work until much recently.

Neverwhere has been around for a while, but because I read the most recent “Author’s Preferred Text” edition of this book, it doesn’t count as a Come Lately.

Like with the works of Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman has a fairly standard format for the stories categorized as “Faery Tales for Grown-Ups”. The story begins on Earth Prime, with an average Tom, Dick, or Harry who finds himself in a parallel world, typically populated by elves or magical folk. The hero goes on a quest with one or more of the inhabitants of this land and becomes a better person who proceeds to kick ass back on Earth Prime.

Am I criticizing this? Hell no. Because as I said, these are faerie tales for grown-ups. It’s okay to stick with a certain set of archetypes because at the end of the day, this is escapism in its purest form. C.S. Lewis did for children what Neil Gaiman does for us when we no longer have the option of being sent to a nice house in the country while our parents risk death in the middle of air raids. He draws a door on a brick wall and gives us the option of walking through it, with the knowledge that this decision will forever change us.

Neverwhere is no different. We all want to be Richard Mayhew on some level. We all want some big change to happen to us and to make us better than what we are, but we don’t always have the courage to go out there and do it. This is a man who follows a prescribed path to success and happiness, but when he finds that none of these things are guaranteed, it only makes sense that the appeal of London Below and all of its bizarre rules and inhabitants is stronger than what London Above can promise.

The story is packed with interesting characters, multiple story arcs, foreshadowing, and enough plot twists that feel like a well deserved punch to the smug faces of any readers who think, “Pfft, I totally know what’s going to happen next”.

Am I a true fan of Neil Gaiman? At the end of this Neverwhere, I think I finally joined the club.

Come Lately Reviews: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

In a previous post, I discussed the concept of being a “true fan”. To sum it up for the purposes of this review, a true fan isn’t someone who has always been aware of the existence of an artist or a piece of art. A true fan could be someone who has just now discovered that thing and feels a certain emotional connection.

Keep in mind that there is a clear line between having an emotional connection with something or someone, and having an unhealthy fixation. Reading Anne Rice’s books, visiting her website or Facebook page and participating in the discussions is part of a healthy emotional connection. Believing that you out of six billion people were meant to sneak into Sandra Bullock’s bedroom and serenade her with Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up is the end result of an unhealthy fixation.

As I’m sure can be said of many artists, fans of David Bowie camp out on that clear line and sometimes use it like a jump rope.

Growing up, David Bowie has always been a part of my life in one fashion. We watched Labyrinth when I was a child in the home of my grandmother, who passed away when I was nine. Later, while helping my mother decorate the house for Christmas when I was about twelve, I listened to a song on the radio and at first only recognized the singing voice of Bing Crosby, one of my mother’s favorites. He was singing Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie, which I later learned was Bing’s very last televised performance before he passed away.

Then there was Lenore. The lost Lenore, who I have seen since 2003 nevermore. Seriously though, Lenore was a good friend of mine who absolutely loved David Bowie. It was she, not I that knew that on the night following September 11th, when all of those musicians and artists got together for that impromptu concert, it was David Bowie who was the first to perform. However, I was the one who informed her of the appearance of David Bowie’s considerable package in one very particular scene in Labyrinth.

On a side note, this review is dedicated to Lenore. Though I haven’t seen her in a long time, she was one of the first people in my thoughts when I learned of his passing and I hope she is well these days. So if you’re a friend of hers, or if you still exchange e-mails, pass it along please.

For the first time, I watched Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, thanks to AXStv. The truth is that I could have listened to his music anywhere at any time, but watching this video, which was the recording of the very last stop on his tour in 1973, made me feel like I was a part of that audience. Imagine being in England at the Hammersmith Theater on that day, singing Changes and Major Tom along with David.

More moving than the music, was the behind the scenes footage of David and the band getting dressed and made-up for the stage. There were a lot of things that I didn’t realize about a concert. One is that when the guitarists are doing their solos, usually it’s to distract the audience while the lead singer goes behind stage to change costumes. But something I have always kind of known is that a concert is a business. It’s a day on the job like any other job. So seeing the make-up artists and watching David just being an ordinary guy like the rest of us in those few minutes, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette (okay, I don’t smoke, and without judging, maybe this could be a wake-up call for the people who do) while casually having a chat with his wife, Angie was as much a part of the magic as seeing him on stage.

 

The Same Page Media Reviews: Dual Survival Fire and Ice

First, a quick refresher.

Dual Survival takes two survivalists from completely different backgrounds and places them in a scenario where a less experienced individual either did not make it out alive, or simply didn’t have the ideal outcome. (I’m still not one hundred percent sure if all of the scenarios involved straight fatalities) In most cases, the survivalists only have the resources that the people in that scenario had with them, which may or may not include a knife, or tools that can be used to make fire.

I also have to correct a mistake I made in a previous post. Originally, I thought that Cody Lundin’s original partner was Joe Teti, when in fact he began the series with Dave Canterbury. But in both cases, Joe and Dave had the military background, whereas Cody Lundin and later Matt Graham utilized more traditional survival methods.

I say traditional, because I personally find the word “primitive” to be as disrespectful and misleading as the word “hippie”. And before anyone accuses me of being overly PC, keep in mind that people with a military background have been the subject of just as much labeling and misguided judgments as people who make a habit of living off the grid. I try to show respect to everyone’s way of life as much as possible, especially when I feel that there is something we can learn from them.

This takes me to the two newest survivors to host the series: Bill McConnelly and Grady Powell. Unfortunately, I missed the first episode, due to previous commitments, but I was able to watch a rerun this afternoon. I have to say that I was not disappointed.
My original apprehension had more to do with the advertising. I was afraid that the show’s potential entertainment factor was being played up when they used the term “hippie” to describe Bill and his approach to survival.

It’s true that Bill is definitely the more emotionally driven of the two survivors. He appreciates nature, but respects her deadly force. He treats small victories like major wins, which I can definitely appreciate. More the point, his confidence is what led him to using a single match to make certain that a cave found on a volcanic mountain was not full of CO2.

This was the first major difference that came up between Bill and Special Forces Operative Grady Powell. It was a legitimate concern, as they were still on a mountain that was freezing cold and they were losing daylight. There’s no point in spending the night in a cave when there’s a chance that you won’t wake up the next morning. So Bill convinced Grady that it was better to err on the side of caution, by at least making sure the air inside the cave wasn’t deadly. His gambit was made on the confidence that he could start a fire, even in the extremely wet environment.

Later, towards the end of the episode, the men both made separate attempts to get a fire going. First, Bill tried to cash in on his promise by crafting a bow drill with the resources he found to no avail. Then Grady tried to use the lithium battery from a cellphone, which was included in the backpack they found at the beginning of the scenario, and this was slightly closer to the goal, but no cigar was to be found.

The episode ended on a cliff hanger. Will these men survive the night? Will they tap out?

More to the point, what do I think of this early episode of the new series?

Well, it’s definitely a major difference when I’m starting with two completely different people. The main downside of watching a series that has been running for almost ten years, is that you watch the reruns with the two older guys and after awhile, you take them for granted. Even though Cody and Dave, Joe and Cody, Joe and Matt had different backgrounds and survival skills, the episodes I wound up catching were usually very late in the game and by this time, both survivalists had a better understanding of each other’s skills.

Now, not only are we meeting Grady and Bill for the first time, but they’re also just now meeting each other. And this trust is put to the test a number of times in this one episode, not just with the fire. Just as Grady was putting his life into Bill’s hand by trusting that he could get a fire going, Bill also had to place his trust in Grady when it came to rappelling down a slippery cliff with the rope that was also in the same backpack as the cellphone. Being someone who has always had to rely on his own skills, it was a learning curve for Bill to trust someone that he had to convince to trust him many hours earlier.

Similarly, Grady is having to adjust to someone who is not as methodical and by-the-numbers as a man with military training. This is something else I can relate to, as I’m often forced to interact with people who might have (by my standards) an unusual approach to doing things. I also have an unusual way of looking at the world and how it works, that probably irks others, but like Grady, there is a point when you have to accept that this is what you have to work with.

Was Bill wrong to take such a major risk with their lives? The shoe is on both feet, because even Grady didn’t take into account the CO2 gas in that cavern. But I said it once, or twice, in my previous reviews that you can never be 100% certain that your plan will work out. There will always be that unaccountable %1 that you can only hope will not be the thing that takes you completely out of the game.

The major difference between two people who have no clue what they’re doing and two people who have the training is knowledge and experience. Bill wasn’t simply imagining that he knew what he was doing. He was 99% sure of his skills and that %1 is what got them both at the end of the next day.

But now the die have been cast once more and there will be a new episode that continues the scenario. I will look forward to it with anticipation and optimism as well as to many more episodes featuring these men and their skills.

There Are No “Real Fans” or “True Fans”

There was a bit of a discussion going on as to whether or not someone considered themselves a true fan of David Bowie. Since they only now discovered his work after hearing about his death, they listened to his music and found they enjoyed it, but confessed that they probably couldn’t qualify as a “real fan”.

I suppose there are going to be people who only now know of Alan Rickman because he too died, at 69, of cancer. Just like, and within days of, David Bowie no less. Does that mean they aren’t going to be “real fans” because they haven’t followed the actor’s body of work?

After reading this, I got to wondering about people who say they are fans of Shakespeare. Well, here’s a guy who has been dead for a half a millennium and none of the people who are just discovering his work could say they were around before he passed away. But if the words of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, or the Sonnets, resonate with you, then certainly that makes you as much of a fan as the people who were able to see those plays on their opening night.

I discovered Doctor Who late in the game. Elizabeth Sladen passed away before I could fully appreciate why the world is a darker place without her. It makes me sad when I see her with John Pertwee, Tom Baker, and David Tennant and think, “Wow, I wish I knew about her sooner.” And I consider myself to be as much of a fan of these actors and the people who were responsible for this franchise.

So if you discovered David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Robbin Williams, or any of the people who passed away in your life time as a result of their deaths, then just remember: They belong to you as much as they belonged to the world in their time. Their music, their performances, their words were all gifts to be enjoyed by everyone and anyone for as long as it would be possible to have access to them.

That you only now became aware of them is a testament to how badly they will be missed, and how much better the world is for their having been here. You are as true a fan as I am.

Check out my review of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere where I explore more of the theme of “True Fans”.