Mission: Pizza was a success!

Oh, and the critiquing was cool, too.

Last night was interesting. It was a small meetup this time around, with four other people in attendance. Rose and I bought our pizza before everyone else showed up, not knowing the dining etiquette of the group. Turns out it’s an informal rotation, with someone just randomly buying the pizza. The other members showed up, ate the pizza when it arrived, and the meeting began.

Everyone except Rose and me brought excerpts from writing projects (I didn’t have anything ready or suitable, in my opinion). One person would read aloud, and then we would go around the table and offer our thoughts on the piece. I know I said I would probably just sit and observe, and I probably could have gotten away with it if I insisted, but I ended up participating like everyone else. I wouldn’t call my critique skills impressive, but I hope I performed adequately.

Rose got to show off her dramatic skills when one author asked her to read. She’s so cute.

After the meeting ended, four of us played a game called Kung Fu Fighting. Holy bananas, it was fun, even if I was eliminated first. I want this game.

Kung Fu Fighting

How to make hand-to-hand combat more exciting? Do it with cards, of course!

 

And the expansion.

More! Kung Fu Fighting

Well, the game is better than the expansion's name. Promise.

Anyway, everyone seemed very cool, and I enjoyed the evening, even if I was nervous. Will I go back? I’m not sure yet. The face-to-face aspect was a good change from my usual “I’ll pass on the social interaction, thank you, but hand me more of that surfing the net alone” habit, and the critiques seemed well done. On the other hand, the allowed page count anyone can bring is limited by necessity due to group size and amount of time each critique receives, and I feel like I would be a more effective critiquer if I had more time to analyze a piece of work and formulate my response. Also, I would only be able to attend every other meetup, at most. So, we’ll see if I continue with the group.

And now, I have several days off to enjoy.

 


I prefer to think of her as a “human shield.”

I decided to take the plunge and go to the critique group tonight. It’s a no-lose situation, really — even if I don’t click with the group, I’m getting pizza.

HELL YEAH, PIZZA!

HELL YEAH, PIZZA!

This post seems especially relevant, since Rose is coming with me.   Now, even though she is the right height for it, I have to remind myself not to use her as a crutch. She is there to have fun and to make me feel comfortable, but I still have to socialize. Even so, I think, since this is my first time attending, I will most likely spend the night in observation rather than actively participating. I want to get a feel for the group and how they do things.

Now, just another hour until pizza! I mean, fun with humans. Yeah, the second one.


The plunge. Take it?

I stand on the edge of a cliff. Behind me is safety. Before me is quite the opposite. The plunge ends in a pool, but I can’t tell how deep the water is. Maybe it would cushion my dive, or maybe I would slam into the bottom and break my bones. One foot is over the edge. I could just let myself fall.

* * * * *

I’m considering joining a critique group. I was a part of Critters years ago. I never actually submitted anything of my own there, but I did some critiques of others’ works.

My reasons are twofold. Firstly, when I actually get around to writing something finally, it would be good to get an outside perspective on it. Secondly, and this is the part that relates to that bit at the very top of this post, I thought it might be good for me to socialize with other writers. Socialize as in seeing someone in person and speaking to them with my voice. Yeah, social intercourse in the flesh.

It may not seem revolutionary, but for me, it is. I am shy. I daresay cripplingly so. People who have known me for some time may forget this, because if I know you and like you, I am much more open. But if I do not know you, and if I am in a strange situation, chances are I will close up tighter than an oyster during pearl season.

I found a local critique group on Meetup, and even better, one which focuses on speculative fiction. I even went so far as to join the group. Turns out they meet every week.

See, I expected maybe bimonthly or monthly. Don’t these people have lives? Who meets every week, man? At least if I had a few extra weeks to psych myself up, I could go to one of their meetings in some sort of comfort. But now, knowing how soon a meeting is, I am backpedaling. Comfort zone violated. Abort, abort! Full retreat!

I’m not saying I’ll never go, mind you. Maybe I’ll even go to this week’s meeting rather than putting it off until a future one. Still, it freaks me out. I’m just supposed to walk in there? Do I introduce myself, or expect them to recognize me from my photo? Should I hide in the corner the first time and just watch them? Is it like a fraternity, and I have to do some humiliating pledge thing?

Maybe an online group would be better after all?


World Domination Plan (disguised as a long-term to-do list)

Writing activities of interest! That’s the theme for today. I’ve gathered a few items I would like to do someday. Goals should help motivate me. That, and I love making lists.

One of these days, I will have a post that’s not about writing. Really. Maybe. Let’s get started already.

1. Get involved in the publishing business in some way.
Obviously, I mean besides “being a published author.” I had a short stint as a proofreader, and I kind of miss it. I might like to read slush, too, even knowing the dangers of it. A paid gig would be ideal, but I’d work for free (or small perks of some kind) if it was for a publication I admired. I suppose it’s one of those “being a part of something greater” things. A little cog in the machine, contributing to the smooth running.

2. Contribute to anthologies.
If I’m going to keep doing short stories (and I’ve made no move towards being a novelist yet), then I really should aim to break into the anthology market. My story would stand beside those of other authors, even if I might feel anxious over whether I measure up to them. Given a great anthology with awesome authors and editors, though, I only see it as a win.

3. Collaborate with another author.
I don’t know how well I would work on a shared creative project. Still, I’d like to give it a try. I’m sure there’s an author out there I would click with, like Ozzy Osbourne clicked with Randy Rhoads to make some awesome music.

4. Write in a shared universe.
Sometimes, I think I work better when given limitations, like a premade world. That’s how it seems when I make characters for roleplaying games, anyway. Working with a preestablished reality actually gives my imagination a jolt. I read the source material, and random things set the old synapses to firing. I’d like to go beyond simply jumping into an established franchise — I’d like to create a new world with some other writers to share. I think it could turn out spectacular.

5. Go to a convention or something.
This one I have mixed feelings about. On the positive side, there would be lots of people. On the negative side, there would be lots of people. I’m a lot less antisocial than I used to be, but a recent visit to San Francisco reminded me that I still very much prefer small groups of people over a crushing throng. If I could get over that, however, a convention would be awesome. Rubbing elbows (metaphorically speaking, preferably) with people of a like mind to myself, maybe a tiny bit of networking, just having fun, that sort of thing. Don’t think I’d ever want to be a panelist or anything — don’t think I could ever be one — but maybe I could just have a little table in the corner with a pitcher of lemonade to share with the occasional fan or fellow author that might show up. And cookies. I’d bake them myself if that was a requirement.

And that’s the end of that chapter.

(No, that’s not going to be a regular signoff. Just a Simpsons quote)

 

P.S.¬† You know how I mentioned that WordPress randomly suggests links to attach to my posts (like all the links I have in this very post)? Well, the line “That, and I love making lists” has the phrase “love making” in it, and so WordPress recommended a link to Wikipedia’s article on sexual intercourse. I find this hilarious.


Timesink, trustworthy advice, and terminology

Let me begin with a warning: beware the timesink that is the PC game Terraria. I just can’t stop exploring those randomly generated worlds. Multiplayer with my friends only makes the addiction worse. That’s the main reason I’ve neglected to write here. I know all my readers out there missed me.

Wait, does anyone else hear crickets?

Anyway, I have two things to talk about, and neither one will take very much wordage, so I’m combining them into one post. Here we go.

1. I read a post by Nayad Monroe about five things she’s learned from reading slush. Not a whole lot I can add except that it has good advice and it gave me some things to keep in mind when I’m writing. So, go read it if you’re a writer trying to get published. Thank you, Nayad.

2. An ongoing project of mine is increasing my vocabulary. Obviously, a wide choice of words is ideal for a writer. I’ve discovered two useful online tools to help me. Dictionary.com lets you create a virtual deck of flashcards. I’ve made one with my list of recent words of the day, and it’s really working out for me so far. Another good site for learning words is Vocabulary.com. It’s very “smart” — it quizzes you on definitions and keeps track of the words you need to review, then brings them up in a later round. Plus, achievements! What gamer can resist achievements?

And now, I think I’ll go read a bit before bed. I have an early morning at work tomorrow.


Untitled (as in “the title of this post is “Untitled,” not “this post has no title,” see?)

http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/07/entitlement-part-i.html

http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/07/entitlement-part-ii.html

These two posts got me thinking about titles. I’ve never felt confident in my titling abilities, truth be told. Mine seem to lack kick. My one published story went through four or five different titles between its many drafts, and one of those was a request from the editor. I ended up with the best title I’d imagined for the story, but was it the best it deserved?

I haven’t considered how important a title really is. When I’m skimming over stories, trying to decide what to read, I know I pass over something that doesn’t catch my attention. Short stories have no other way to introduce themselves — the title is their handshake. Some might get a blurb, too, but you can’t rely on that.

So, I resolve to be more thoughtful about titles from now on. You just watch me.

One last thing: the second post refers to titles that existed before the actual stories. I love this. It never happened to me — I’ve always come up with the story idea first — but it is something¬† I want to try. It reminds me of one of my brainstorming methods: I take a few random words and see how they bang together in my head, like elements creating a chemical reaction. Definitely need to give it a try.


Product Reviews — why even mention the product itself?

I have witnessed a brilliance so dazzling that it could usher in the great disco resurgence spoken of in prophecy.

See, when ordinary mortals write a review for a product, their limited cosmic consciousness prevents them from leaving anything but a review on the actual product. This is what I’ve come to expect, and I’m sure you are no different. How differently I see the world now! Such purpose seems mudane, even quaint, now that I’ve seen a review’s true potential.

There are gods among us who use reviews for change. To make a difference for the better.

I came to this realization when, while perusing reviews for a book on Amazon, I came across a one-star review that complained of the digital edition’s cost. They didn’t waste a single word upon the book’s content at all. Such beauty in its desire to get straight to the point. In fact, the reviewer hadn’t even read the book. Why let that stand in the way of justice, right? The wisdom of this tactic was lost upon me at first, but after a night of fitful sleep, I divined the answer. Surely the publisher would see this one negative review, realize the error of its ways, and drop the price of the ebook immediately.

Freaking genius. In no way would the one-star review reflect poorly on the book or its author. And even if it did, so what? No doubt the author wants to see the price dropped, as well, and is willing to sacrifice a piece of his reputation to achieve this goal.

I’ve actually seen this done on Amazon before, when starred reviews were used to complain about Amazon’s service — Amazon hires a few employees to go through every review on the site to spot these gems, right? — and it never struck me how effective they must be.

I’ve decided it must go further. Why stop at Amazon? Why limit ourselves to books? There’s an entire internet out there, and many a product and service need our attention. Also, there are so many more reasons to leave bad product reviews than price. Here are just a few suggestions.

1. Video game retailers like Gamestop: Say you want to buy a new copy of that hit game, GENERIC FIRST PERSON SHOOTER IN A DESERT COUNTRY. You drive over to your local Gamestop, making sure to bring in a few old, crappy games for some sweet trade-in credit. To your dismay, however, they only offer $1 each for your games. Also, the salesperson is kind of a jerk. You don’t have to take it anymore. Go onto any site that reviews games, like Gamestop’s own site, and post a terrible review for GENERIC FIRST PERSON SHOOTER IN A DESERT COUNTRY, making sure to list all your grievances with the purchasing process. Leave actual game content to the other reviewers. You have a mission.

2. Movie review sites such as Rotten Tomatoes: Perhaps a tall person chose the seat in front of you during SCARY MOVIE 12? What are you going to do about it? Go to a movie review site and give SCARY MOVIE 12 the worst damn review you can give, that’s what! Don’t talk about the movie itself, of course, because that would get in the way of your seating etiquette complaint.

3. Pretty much any website that lets you review local businesses, e.g. Yelp: You know that Mexican restaurant down the street? Maybe you should go there for lunch. You are kinda craving a burrito and some salt-basted chips. Wash it all down with salsa that you’ll pretend didn’t just come from a jar. That’s your plan when you’re driving to work. By the time your lunch break rolls around, though, you change your mind about Mexican food. You can’t even look at a chili pepper without feeling nauseated. You know what you must do — write a terrible review of the restaurant for failing to keep your interest long enough for you to actually visit it. Their food should be so transcendant that you wouldn’t even dream of not being in the mood for it.

I’m sure if we all take these drastic, but necessary measures, we can fix all the problems with the world, and maybe then I can finally afford those damn digital books I need so badly it hurts me. Let’s do this, people.

(P.S. In the interest of protecting the innocent-or-otherwise, I will not tell you which book this one-star review was for, since the book only has four reviews at the moment. Suffice to say, it is a book involving an awesome actor who has been in movies with zombies, aliens, and, perhaps scariest of all, Nick Frost.)

(P.P.S. I FREAKING LOVE RANDOM LINKS THAT WORDPRESS RECOMMENDS!)