Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Better Living Through Pseudoscience

"The spotlight makes me feel as if I'm a giant alien bug roasting beneath a magnifying glass--not unlike those noble arthropods in my favorite film, Starship Troopers. But I am only a middle-aged man wearing a frayed lab coat, standing center-stage in a theater that's seen better days. Although I can't see much beyond the glare of the spotlight, I know I am addressing a full house, thanks to savvy promises of air-conditioning and free soft serve during the worst heat wave of the decade.  
I rub my thumb against the freckle on my palm for luck. It is my first infomercial and I have reasons to be jittery. Even now, my nemesis hides among the slack-jawed tourists, waiting to strike..."

These are the first two paragraphs of my new short story, "Better Living Through Pseudoscience" available in the new ebook, MAD SCIENTIST JOURNAL: AUTUMN 2013.

Available for Nook and Kindle.

It's one of those funny mad scientist stories--at least, it makes me chortle in the secret corners of myself. And it clocks in at 2,700 words, if you are concerned about getting enough value for your money. I know I am! No shame there!

Happy Wednesday.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Working with writer's block

At 2am this morning, I finished a new 3,500-word short story. It's embarrassing to admit how long it's been since I last wrote a short story from scratch. Let's just say...a while.

So, future me asks, how did you manage to complete this story?

A few things helped. On Sunday, I attended a one-day Clarion West workshop taught by Eileen Gunn, about working through creative impasses. I managed a rough ending during one of the 15-minute writing burst exercises--at least enough to start editing and expand.

Having a deadline helped. Knowing I had to deliver what I promised helped.

I didn't turn off the internet, but I probably should have. After a month of trying to write this thing, by mid-day yesterday I had about two thousand good words and some rocky words. The key was that no matter how much I procrastinated, and I procrastinated a lot, I would keep forcing myself back to the keyboard. I treated myself like a stubborn kid who refused to eat her vegetables. I basically threw a lot of tantrums, certain I wasn't going to be able to do it, but I kept forcing myself to open MS Word and make small attempts. Over and over and over...Until I was too exhausted to fight anymore and I ate the damned leafy greens.

There are authors who don't believe in writer's block. I envy them. I wish I didn't believe, too. But I have these tendencies, if nothing else, to avoid writing fiction. Give me something tangible and clear cut, where I can make a fancy list and check off deliverables and I'm solid. Technical writing, no problem, but fiction? I struggle.

I've thought a lot about why I struggle. I know it's in my head. I've reorganized my entire life to be conducive to writing. I have the equipment, the books, the support network. So why freeze up? Two reasons come to mind. One, I dislike not being good at something so much I'd almost rather not to do it than fail. Two, I'm afraid of being boring. Both are fantastic ways to make that playful voice inside my head, the one that whispers, "What about..." and "This might sound weird, but..." to take its toys and play elsewhere.

All of this is to say, the draft is done and submitted. And, future me? There are much, much better ways for us to write a short story. Go find them.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Hello, I'm a Narrator for Hire

Hi. I realize this post isn't applicable to 97% of the readers of this site. This post goes out to that very special 3%. You know who you are...

Yesterday I signed up for Elance--a web site that helps freelancers connect with employers. There are no fees for basic membership, but Elance does take a cut of any earnings you arrange through the site.

I put in bids for a few jobs -- voice acting, podcast related -- that sounded interesting and I'll keep an eye out for new opportunities. Of course, if I did get hired, I wouldn't discuss any details of the jobs here--so to any potential employers that might be checking me out, no need to worry about discretion.

In related news, it's true! I am happily available to narrate your fiction or non-fiction for the purposes of audio distribution, and can supply you a quote if you tell me the word count. My email address is at the top of the About page and examples of my narrations are on the Podcasts page.

I'm still actively applying for full-time work, but in the mean time, I would like to explore all revenue-generating opportunities.

What else is going on? I've been struggling like crazy to finish writing a new short story. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time, but on Sunday, I'll be taking a one-day workshop about working through creative blocks. So that's good.

Happy Tuesday.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Achieving website non-bloat

How is it that just my right hand gets cold when I'm typing? Both hands contribute equally, and yet the right is a veritable ice sculpture while the left remains a tepid puddle.

So here I am, again, at the dining room table. I'm working on a new short story--in and of itself a minor miracle--and trying to ignore all the things my brain says I should do instead.

Like write blog posts, obviously.

For some reason I've also decided it's more important (than writing) to tediously save a bunch of recipes to my desktop from an old website on angelfire that I've consulted many times over the years. I loved the site, but all the angelfire popups have finally made the site unusable because each page takes forever to load, so I had the bright idea of saving all content off-line and removing the ads manually so I could keep using the site as reference. It's working great except there are over 1,000 recipes to save and update and I am not savvy enough to use grep or other magic editing tool. To be clear, I'm not removing any copyright info or obscuring origin info, and the ads don't benefit the content creator, just the hosting company.

I just really want to be able to browse the site without bloat!

Anyway. The process has actually been kind of soothing. Some people craft, I make off-line copies of really useful web sites that haven't been updated in three years and will probably disappear soon.

The plan for today is to write, read, edit more recipes, record a podcast, and watch some TV. I'd add "work out" to the mix, but honestly I'm afraid of the gym in January, what with all the resolutioners resolutioning. Better to focus on the writing this morning and then tackle the treadmill.

Following that logic, it's back to MS Word.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy 2014, and Hello Again

Happy New Year!

I always feel extra hopeful around the start of the year, like the slate has been wiped clean and I'm free to attempt some crazy new goal without judgment.

This feeling also explains why I tend towards depression around February, when the reality of my repeated failures sinks in, but that's not important right now. Now is the time to compartmentalize!

Last year my focus was on health and I made some huge strides in that area. I met with a nutritionist, learned how to prepare and cook vegetables, worked with a personal trainer and made all the bad numbers move in a good direction.

This year I need to get back to writing. And I need to get a job. Those are my goals in a nutshell, although they are better defined than that off-line. You'll just have to trust me.

So now I'm sitting at the dining room table, listening to the dishwasher whoosh and what-not. The curtains are closed. It appears (via gaps between the fabric, the wall, and the window) to be sunny and cold, always cold now, but a moderate cold. And I am not hungover, which means today is already miles better than yesterday, assuming happiness is measured in miles and not kilometers--miles sounds more like smiles, leading me to believe my instinct is correct--and the holidays have left me with a new pile of books to read, music to consume, and movies to deaden my sockets.

As for my traditional New Year's Wish: May 2014 bring you everything you desire and only some of what you deserve.

And we're off.