The story that would not die; tic-tac-toe squared; I want to read something, but can’t unless it gets Kickstarted.

How’s the creativity going, Hob?”

I’m glad you asked! Because I have good news and bad news. Or maybe both items are bad. Not sure about one of them yet.

I’ll start with the (definite) bad. I have not been devoting the time I should to my creativity. I know, bad writer, no treat. To be fair, I’ve had a busy time of it. For one thing, we’re looking for a place to live. Yet despite my perfectly valid excuse, I know I’ve had pockets of time here and there I could have used for my creativity. Hey, I’m a work in progress. I won’t let myself get stressed if I can’t manage because of a busy schedule, but I will still try harder to find that time.

Okay, the (maybe) good news: I’m not giving up on my current story yet. I have a rewrite planned. It incorporates elements from earlier drafts that I cut for different reasons. I think I might be able to make these bits work the second time around. It helps, and hurts so bad, that I’m changing the ending again. Hopefully, this last rewrite will be the last one, and I can polish it up and get it out there for people to read.

Unless, of course, this story is going to be like a jalopy I keep in my yard, tinkering with whenever I feel the urge. Forever. A never-ending project, a puzzle I never quite solve. Who knows? I will work on other things someday. Soon. But right now I’m not willing to give up on this one. Besides, the elements I’m bringing back in make the story weirder, and that’s a good thing!

If only there was a way to make tic-tac-toe fresh and exciting…”

Dude, there totally is! Just discovered it today, over at the Math with Bad Drawings blog. It’s nine games of tic-tac-toe played within one gigantic game of tic-tac-toe. Go read the article. I love the idea. And you can play anywhere with a few easily carried tools. Or in the sand with a stick!

Hey, have you heard about that Better Angels roleplaying game written by Greg Stolze for Arc Dream Publishing? Makes me wish there was a novel along the same tone.”

Then I have great news for you, person asking me all these questions and setting up my post so perfectly. Greg Stolze is actually writing a novel called Sinner. Nay, scratch that — he’s finished it. He just needs a little Kickstart to get it out to us, the people. I’ve read the first chapter and want to read more. So, in my own self interest, I’m spreading the word. It has three days and just needs a little more cash. Go on, help out.

I love Kickstarter. I’ve gotten some awesome things from it. I’m trying to limit my involvement lately because it can be a dangerous pastime, both in addictiveness and in risk. But Greg Stolze is a pro, and I have faith in the project.

And with that, I dissolve into the night. *looks outside and notices it’s early afternoon* Um, you can leave first if you want. This might take a while.

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Getting over writer’s block. As easy as climbing a mountain.

Yes, indeed. Mt. Writingsuccess. The clouds engulfing the peak create an illusion that it is smaller, more easily scaled, than it actually is. I’ve challenged this mountain before.

 

It bested me.

 

All writers start at the bottom, surrounded by the writer wannabes. All it takes is one step up the mountain to set yourself apart from them. One step. It’s actually quite easy. No need for rock climbing gear, oxygen, or warm clothing. Just taking the one step is all you need to do.

 

It’s all uphill from there, my friend.

 

I climbed beyond the one step. It took time. Effort. I penetrated the cloud cover. Had I reached the top? Hell no! I stood on a ledge and stared up, up toward the peak. So high.

 

I fell off the mountain. I rolled to the bottom. The fall left me broken.

 

For years, I stared up at where the clouds met the mountain. I tried to remember what it looked like up there. I couldn’t. Maybe it was best that way. Perhaps I should just forget.

 

That’s when I saw it. The goat.

 

Cocky little bastard was standing almost sideways up there. The goat stared at me. It trapped me in the boxes of its rectangular pupils.

 

Hey!” I yelled. “Don’t you judge me, goat! Climbing mountains is easy when you have cloven hooves.”

 

Mountain goat

Man, check out this asshole. Smug little shit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Its bleat echoed down to me. Mocking me. Well, to hell with that jerk. I wouldn’t let him get away with it. I started climbing again, determined to get that goat. The climb was harder now. I remembered falling, and I still bore some lasting injuries from it. The goat wasn’t waiting for me, either. It leaped and scrabbled its way higher. I didn’t care. I would eat that damn goat. Raw.

 

#

#

#

 

I’m glad I finally fought past the writer’s block. But was that the hard part, or is the hard part really ahead, like I suspect? My skills have lay fallow, so I must relearn them. That sucks, to know I may be a worse writer now than I was years ago at the height of my game. And I can admit to myself that the height of my game wasn’t much. I have a publication in a semi-pro magazine, but that’s it, and that one was a long battle to win. But I will go on. I have to believe I can reach the same level. I have to strive to go beyond it.

 

My current story is a start. After several drafts and a lot of time, I can say with certainty that it is — okay. Considering it is my first “completed” effort (in quotation marks because it is a full-length story even if I’m still working on it) since the block, I’d call it remarkable. A miracle that I even finished it. But there is so much more climbing to do. I don’t even know if this story will ever be good enough in my eyes to send out to magazines. I’ve got some plot issues to fix, and they’re pretty tough bananas to peel. Might need to give them time to get ripe. Part of me fears putting the story in the drawer, though. What if I never come back to it? I suppose if I end up writing things that I like better, it shouldn’t matter, but it’s symbolic now. Then again, a symbol could be relatively unimportant, only there to inspire greater things.

 

We’ll see. I’ll tinker with it over the next day or two and make a decision later. Maybe I just needed to write it to break the block, to serve as a learning experience. Who knows?

 

One last order of business before I sign off. I’ve gone by many names in my day. I shift in and out of them like I change my shape, trying to find something I look good in. Seeing as how I’m making a serious go at the writing thing, I need to settle on a name to write under. Since this is meant to be my personal/professional blog as a writer, it’s probably best to bear that label here, as well.

 

Ruskin Drake is a name of the past. It served me well enough. New life, though, comes with a new name. Hopefully this time, the name will stick.

 

You can call me Hob. Hob Nickerson. Nice to meet you.


Recommendation: Canada

No, I’m not recommending the entire country to my north (though hey, if it’s your thing, go nuts). The theme of my recommendation is television shows from Canada. There are two of them! I assume they make more, but these are the two I’ve found recently.

  1. Lost Girl

When I first heard about this one, it was a headline in passing, and I didn’t take the time to read the article. I’m glad I gave it a chance when I saw it on the front page of Netflix later on.

Here’s the synopsis from its IMDb page:

Lost Girl focuses on the gorgeous and charismatic Bo, a supernatural being called a succubus who feeds on the energy of humans, sometimes with fatal results. Refusing to embrace her supernatural clan system and its rigid hierarchy, Bo is a renegade who takes up the fight for the underdog while searching for the truth about her own mysterious origins.

The supernatural beings, by the way, are the Fae. Honestly, that’s probably one reason I passed on it at first: a succubus being classified as fae. Feels wrong to me. I’m weird like that. But I got over it and watched it anyway, and it’s pretty damn good, I think.

Some of my favorite things about it: the hidden world parallel to our own, the mystery of Bo’s origins (answers come, and more answers await), and the dynamic between the characters, especially Bo/Kenzie.

And hey, if you like sexy shows, this one’s pretty sexy.

  1. Continuum

Thank you, Netflix, for thinking — knowing? — I would like this show.

From IMDb:

A detective from the year 2077 finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver and searching for ruthless criminals from the future.

Now, there is only one actual instance of time travel, but it is still very much a time travel show. There are questions of paradox, altering the timeline, all that sort of thing. Which I love. I’ve always loved time travel. I subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation nowadays (at least according to a quick Google search, I do).

I wish I could tell you more about these shows, but I’m paranoid about spoiling people. Plus, I’m not that far into Continuum yet. If you don’t trust my judgment, do some more research on your own. Hey, if you have Netflix, just watch the pilots. Minimal investment. Lost Girl starts really picking up in later seasons, I think.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to read. I need to relax before I keel over.


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Beta readers: friends or foes?

I had another post all lined up for today, but I’m preempting it because I can. What are you going to do about it? NOTHING. So sit down and shut your face!

I mean, hey, check this out, lovely people.

Today marks the completion of the fifth draft of my latest short story (which I should really come up with a title for someday). Up to now, it has received no outside feedback. I didn’t think it was ready to be seen by outside eyes. But now it is, and I’ve requested beta readers.

It wasn’t until after I did this that I realized some things. I haven’t written for several years. In that span of time, nobody has read any of my fiction, new or old. This is the first time a lot of people are going to read something I’ve written. Having not seriously written any fiction for so long, I am surely out of practice.

What have I done? Am I insane? ABORT! ABORT!

2010-09-25_12-02-02_764

The button does nothing! (Photo credit: Lorenia on Flickr)

Crap, too late, people are responding. Okay, stay cool. They’re your friends. They’re cool. They’re nice…mostly. They won’t destroy your work and self esteem.

Will they? Oh CRAP, some of them would just for the laughs! I AM A FOOLISH FOOL!

Dramatization aside, it does make me nervous to share my work with people I know. I’m not nervous because I’m thin skinned. I can take criticism, and in this case welcome it. It’s just the fact that I KNOW these people makes it weird, like they’re staring into my brain and seeing things there. Strangers? Hey, no problem. I don’t know them, will never see them, will never attend a BBQ with them or go see a movie with them. People I know? I have to see them (sometimes only metaphorically thanks to the Internet, but regardless) after they read something that I ripped screaming from my head. That’s WEIRD.

But I’m doing it anyway. Because hey, It’s not ME they’re reading. It’s just a story.


What to write, what to write…

I’m getting off a major case of writer’s block. That’s right, I mentioned my block yet again. If you’re playing the drinking game, take a sip. But anyway, one thing that kept that block going for so long is that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write. Well, here’s a secret for you. Come close, I’ll whisper it.

I still don’t know.

I know I want to write fiction. Speculative fiction, most likely fantasy (if I even attempted science fiction, I know science geeks would laugh at me). That’s all I’ve got right now. I’ve never had a strong direction with my art. Probably why I’ve done short stories for my entire career up to this point. Well, except for that one brief fling with a serial story.

How can I not know what I want to write? I blame my brain and all the things it finds fascinating. I imagine most people have minds like a shelf with a few knickknacks. The knickknacks are their interests, and they only have a few to show off, so it’s easier to focus on them.

I, on the other hand, am more like a box filled with random junk. When you shake me, different things rise to the top, and while the contents of the box remain the same, its insides are still altered.

I have many interests, and each can become primary at any time. I could really be into Star Trek at one point, and then a week later be all about Greek mythology. Can’t control it. My brain just shifts gears and I have to go along for the ride. I’m like a jack of all trades, except it’s really a brain of all trades. But remember the rest of the phrase: master of none.

(Which, according to Wikipedia, actually came later.)

Without a strong, lasting interest to focus on, it’s hard to think about long-term projects, and if I ever want to write novels, this is something I must do. So, considering this fact about myself, how do I decide what I want to write?

Write what I know? I don’t know crap. But really, this goes back to the many interests thing. Write what I read? I read a lot of different things, and I wouldn’t write well in some of the genres and subgenres I enjoy. As much as I’d like to claim to be able to write anything and everything, this is not so.

Maybe to figure out the what, I need to think about the why. Just why in the hell do I want to write? Why submit myself to this torture? The power? Fortune? Fame?

Nah, none of that. I’m not talking about the possible results of my writing. I’m talking about what drives the creative urge.

I think I know one non-answer. I don’t write to deal with my own issues or emotions. I’ve tried it, and it works okay, at best. It doesn’t inflame my writer’s passion. Maybe I’m just too good at analyzing my emotions without the need for fiction? Wait, what emotions am I talking about? I’m a freaking Vulcan. Ask my wife.

The primary answer, I think, is that I write to entertain. If you’re reading my stuff, I hope you’re having fun doing it. Even if it’s not something “fun,” I hope it entertains you.

Two other answers which apply:

  • I write to talk about themes that interest me. Heroism, perhaps, or justice.

  • I write to escape. This world sucks. Writing can let me get away from it once in a while.

I suppose I should ponder these three whys to get the answer to the question of what. I like to ponder.


Shape of the Shifter: a ball

You want to know what shape I’m in? I’ll tell you. I am a ball. I am a tight ball of stress, and the world keeps squeezing.

Keep losing my cool. I do not like losing control.

So what does my current shape mean for the ol’ blog here? What does it always mean when I post one of these? Yeah, I want to cut back some more. Need more time for my fiction. To get away from obligation. I like my blog, but I’ve let it become an obligation. I have to pull even the small posts out of me like daggers, leaving behind wounds spurting blood. The stuff I’m posting lately can’t be that interesting, anyway. My last post was the most elaborate you’ll probably see in awhile. At least I went out with a bang!

I’m not going on hiatus, mind you. Just don’t expect any large, polished posts for now. Anything I come up with will be brief and rough. Micro-posts, if you will. Fun recommendations, maybe, or an interesting link with my thoughts. Will try to stick to my usual schedule, but I won’t try too hard, you know? Just need to get into a new shape before the pressure turns me into a black hole. Okay, see you next time. I’ll be around.

*gets in his man-powered helicopter and pedals himself into the sky*