The Ultimate Writer Confession

There are a dozen reasons I should quit, but...

March 27, 2012

Whenever my students tell me they’re scared to try, I laugh inside. They tell me they’re afraid of looking stupid. They don’t want to feel bad if things go south. If something happens and they don’t succeed, they’re afraid of what others will say.

Really? Let me tell you how the adults play…

In 2005, I asked one of the most highly acclaimed experts on speculative fiction in the country to be one of the men in charge of grading my thesis, an anthology that is now the upcoming Charcoal Streets. He and two other men who were experts in their fields had very good things to say, but some not so nice ones, too. This was one of two theses I had to write in the span of one year.


Stress by ~DinoChocoholic on deviantART

Two years later, I moved to Indiana for all of a week before getting a call from a United States congressman who wished for me to write speeches for him. After packing up, moving to DC, and following a series of events I cannot discuss due to some legal documents best left unmentioned, I had to leave, thousands of dollars in debt, in what I can only describe as a humiliating experience that left me battered and emotionally and financially wrecked.

I had one strand of hope, though. A motivational speaker, one of the best in the country, hired me to edit his novel. After some work, I suggested he get a ghostwriter and get sections rewritten since, as a writer, I could not give the final product my okay since my job was just to check for minor errors. He hired me on the spot and I rewrote a good third of his novel. It’s now one of his top sellers.

After contracting me to ghostwrite a new novel, from start to finish, he ended the contract because he wanted to go in a different direction. There went a good $35,000 dollars and six months of work.

A year later, I got work with a man who wanted me to write for him. He and I collaborated on a documentary I wrote and narrated after he and his crew went on what can only be described as guerilla filmmaking. In a span of a few hours, I wrote the script, we later recorded it, and we put it out for the world to see. I was in for a job writing for documentaries that exposed the things people didn’t want to see… and that ended in a meltdown that I chronicled here

Combine that with the three family members I lost last year, the stress of teaching, only being able to find part-time work, and you’d think I would have given up by now.


Hope by ~AmateurExpert92 on deviantART

Nope.

Randomology Games is up and running. The first gaming book, Elves with Shotguns, is in the final phase of writing and art design, and I’m planning future books while working on the anthology Charcoal Streets, due out in the fall come hell or high water.

Why? Why do it? Every other major financial and professional break has gone bust and left me broke, depressed, and at the edge of my rope. Every one of these jobs ended due to petty egos and greed. I’ve been used by people and left with nothing but enough gas to get home, sometimes not even that.

Why should I hope for more out of this next venture?

…Why not?

Mamma didn’t raise no fool? No. Mamma didn’t raise a quitter. I’m going to keep going as long as I can type. I’m going to make something of myself, I’m going to have my name in print, and I’m going to look after the people close to me and the only way someone’s going to stop me is by killing me. I’m not going to stop. I’ll type with broken fingers in a burning house, but you can’t stop me. No one can. I’ll fail, I’ll get drunk, punch the wall and break my hand, but I won’t stop.

That’s why I laugh when students tell me they’re afraid to make a mistake. They should see how the big dogs play. We make mistakes all the time.

If you can’t take it, don’t even play. I’ve failed dozens of times. I only have to get it right once.

Fox and Beck: Treyvon Martin Had It Coming

Most of us see the victim of a senseless hate crime and overtly lax gun laws. Fox and Beck's goons, though, see a criminal element that needed to be put down.

March 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin’s death and the subsequent stall of justice and prosecution of his killer has made national news in the past few days. Florida’s gun laws and the ability to Florida citizens to seemingly kill with less oversight and consequences than police officers is under scrutiny. But we have to remember something. As much as people are arguing over the gun laws and as much as people are wondering why we haven’t done more towards Zimmerman, there is something more vicious going on.

Some are actually blaming Trayvon for his own murder.

Just when you thought the Right Wing noise machine couldn’t get more despicable, Gerardo Rivera, a man famous for being ordered to leave Iraq after divulging troop positions, went ahead and said one of the worst things I’ve ever heard.

Among other things, Geraldo thinks there’s nothing wrong with crossing the street when you see a black or Latino youth because we’ve all seen punks rob convenience stores wearing hoodies. Trayvon was wearing a hoodie, so Zimmerman may have been partially justified in his reaction to shoot an unarmed teen in his own neighborhood.

This is the same kind of mentality as blaming rape victims.

“Oh, you went out with make-up and a skirt, and you had a drink at the bar? Well, you just looked like the type of woman men would assume wanted to get laid. You were probably asking for it.”

The rape justification is horrible. Blaming a teen for his own murder because he was wearing a hoodie, you know, an article of clothing for cool weather, is downright disgusting.


Justice for Trayvon Martin by ~autumnsayshello on deviantART

Then you have Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze. After Captain Blackboard got the boot from Fox and was dropped from several radio stations, this became his little haven. And boy, he may not have written it, but he’s not said anything about it, either.

Mytheos Holt, an associate editor at the Blaze, wrote an article claiming we didn’t have all the facts yet. For example, did you know that Trayvon was suspended from school? We don’t know why, but the list includes:

  • Harassment (non-sexual or isolated)
  • Petty theft (under $300.00)
  • Assault/Threat against a non-staff member
  • Breaking and Entering/Burglary
  • Bullying (repeated harassment)*
  • Sexual harassment**
  • Grand theft (over $300.00)
  • Sex offenses (other) (including possession and/or distribution of obscene or lewd materials)
  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping/Abduction

Is The Blaze implying Trayvon was a promiscuous murderer who liked to set fires and steal? They just put the list out there as if to say, “You decide, America!”

Well, we have. It’s why Beck lost his show and why people like Holt and Rivera are horrible human beings. We have plenty of facts on the case. It’s become such a national story specifically because we know so much about the case and nothing’s been done about it. If it had been a murder and Zimmerman had been arrested on the spot, it would have still been a tragedy and would likely have garnered some national attention and started a conversation on Florida gun laws.

And even IF Trayvon had been a homicidal pyromaniac, when he was killed, he posed no threat to anyone, especially someone with a loaded gun. Unless, of course, The Blaze is advocating killing people on the basis that they MIGHT have done something wrong.


Skittles and Iced Tea by *Akanei-Rin on deviantART

This just goes to show just how disconnected from reality some people can get. Here we have a case of an overzealous man who shot and murdered an unarmed teen and while most people are trying to figure out the legal implications of the state’s gun laws and how this Zimmerman has not yet been arrested, we have Geraldo and Beck’s cronies wondering how Trayvon himself caused his own murder by being black and wearing clothing.

If anyone asks me why I write these articles and why I keep making videos, I point to things like this. If we don’t actively go after these self-righteous bastards and their insane semblance of “logic,” others might follow suit. It’s why education is important. It’s why we need to learn proper critical thinking skills.

If you look at this case and wonder how Trayvon Martin went so long without getting shot, you should be sterilized for the good of humanity. And set on fire. Also for the good of humanity.

To help wash away the hate and usher in the weekend, here’s the full trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

Tim Burton’s Greatest Mistake?

Johnny here is trying to figure out how to get his soul back from Burton.

March 19, 2012

I was excited when I heard Dark Shadows was going to get a movie adaptation. First of all, it was being directed by Tim Burton. Second of all, it starred Johnny Depp, though that’s kind of a given at this point. Burton and Depp did a great job adapting Sleepy Hollow, one of the great horror comedies of all time as far as I’m concerned. Burton has a good track record (even considering Alice in Wonderland) and he has a style that would lend itself to the campy soap opera.

And then I saw the trailer. If you missed it in the last article, here it is. Keep a tissue handy. You may cry like I did.

Yeah…

I’ll admit I’ve never seen Dark Shadows. I wish I had. It was one of those shows that had a good amount of camp to it but managed to hold its own despite a hectic schedule and soap opera storylines. The fact that it’s still watched and talked about today makes me think it’s something to put on my Netflix queue. In fact, two of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel could be seen as spiritual successors to some of the things Dark Shadows started, namely using supernatural themes

But this?

I’m getting flashbacks to Alice in Wonderland. I love Burton’s style. It’s like a child’s fantasy on acid. My on artwork was influenced by the darks and playfulness and the way something cute might become something horrific at any moment. Lots of black, lots of white, a little gray, and let the creepiness do the rest. Burton, though, seems to be forgetting the lesson he learned from Sleep Hollow.

If you change something, it better be to make the end product superior.


Sleepy Hollow by ~Mize-meow on deviantART

Sure, the old series was full of little mistakes and the production could have used some polishing, but at least it tried. Now, instead of a drama, we’ve got what looks like a fish out of temporal water story. We’ve already got the same tired joke of the visitor from the past getting freaked out by television and the very unfunny mix-ups with modern slang. So far, I haven’t seen anything that tells me this will build on the original series’ legacy or form. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it.

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. Alice in Wonderland was an atrocity. This looks no better. Next thing you know, someone will take Quantum Leap and make it into a zany buddy comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Jack Black. Ooh! How about we bring back Law and Order but make it a musical comedy starring Zac Effron as Lennie Briscoe?

Hollywood, cut it out before we, the fans, decide to pool our resources and invest in a neutron bomb.

And to clean out the broken dreams, here is every episode of Itchy and Scratchy, all in one place.

Mass Effect 3.5: The Crowd Buster

Shown here? The WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO VIDEO GAMES! At least, according to players.

March 16, 2012

I don’t really play video games. The last video game console I owned was a Super Nintendo. That doesn’t mean I don’t play Wii or Xbox games when possible, and don’t think I won’t snipe you from across the map if I get the chance. It’s just not something I invest a lot of time on these days.

Others, however, do, and that’s fine. I have my entertainment, they have theirs. Nothing wrong with that. I do, however, have a few questions for people who are furiously up in arms about the Mass Effect 3 ending.

I haven’t played Mass Effect. In any way shape or form. The last modern game I played was Arkham Asylum almost a year and a half ago. I’m asking this as a storyteller and a writer.

Was the ending so bad that players needed to start a campaign to change the ending?

I’m no stranger to franchises that have spiraled into the crapper. Star Trek Nemesis and the Star Wars prequels left me feeling hollow, like their writers had abandoned me for a round of masturbatory filmmaking that left me feeling sticky and alone. Sliders left such a foul taste in my mouth that I almost gave up on science fiction television. I almost wanted to pretend the first season and a half contained the only episodes. I know what its’ like to have something you’ve cared for turned into crap.


Mass Effect 3 Reactions *non-spoilery* by *ghostfire on deviantART

I understand all that, but is there really any point to having the designers and writer change the ending?

Think about it. What would that accomplish? They made an ending you didn’t like and you’ve made your anger known. To keep going, just stop buying games from the company. They’ll be forced to listen. That’s the standard procedure whenever someone makes a bad product, right? Of course, I understand games have changed. It’s not a matter of looking for your princess in this castle or just getting to the end. Today’s games have a story. They are immersive in a way my generation couldn’t have seen twenty years ago. That changes things. You’re part of the story now. You have a personal interest in things.

Unlike watching a show, you’re knee-deep in alien guts… but are there really that many different options available to you? How many possible endings can there be in a game? This is one reason I love tabletop games more than video games. Last night’s game, for instance, I could make things up on the fly to keep the story going and still keep my players happy. A game designer, whether in print or a video game, has to come up with as many combinations as possible to keep the players interested. There’s no improvisation.


Mass Effect 3 WLiiA? by ~soren7550 on deviantART

Like I said, I haven’t played the game. Based on some of the reviews, I’m sure players feel cheated. It’s entirely possible. You should be angry. But a call to change the ending? That means you would have to return your games and wait for new ones and play the whole thing again and see the new ending. Or you would have to watch the new ending on YouTube or elsewhere anytime you finished the game and wanted the “better” ending. Maybe you could download it, but going from complaining to demanding a better ending from the designers seems like a waste of time.

If Super Mario Brothers had ended badly, I would have just not bought future games. But maybe that’s me. I wasn’t invested in the gripping story of a plumber and his lost love as much as gamers today are invested in stories of alien invasion.

And now, let’s cringe at another bad idea: Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

Kony 2012: This Week’s Money-Grabbing Scam

This is one of the faces of evil. The guys who made him famous last week? They're the faces of unabashed capitalism.

March 13, 2012

A week ago, the Kony 2012 video swept the internet and millions of people posted status updates, shared their views on the tragedy in Africa, and for a while, it seemed everyone was heartbroken over the rape, slaughter and inhumanity perpetrated by this man.

I didn’t buy it.

Not that I didn’t think this was all going on. Far from it. These kinds of war crimes have been going on for years, and we were lucky enough to host a former child soldier at TAMIU who shared his story with us. It’s heartbreaking, to be sure, but something about the Kony 2012 video didn’t smell right. Fighting a warlord by making him popular?

It’s like saying we can beat Al-Qaeda if more people knew about them.


KONY 2012 by ~Friiggi on deviantART

It wasn’t long before others came out and put holes in the video and Invisible Children itself. In short, the organization has had some shady dealings and most of the money goes to the three founders, for travel, and filmmaking. The money that does go to Africa? The organization actually funds the Ugandan military which may or may not be guilty of the same crimes they’ve pinned on Kony.

The video is a 30-minute long commercial for a filmmaker. It’s a non-profit goal kind of how making Avatar was an effort to make the world environmentally conscious. Somewhere, James Cameron is wiping his butt with hundred dollar bills.

It’s not your fault if you didn’t know all this. It took a few days for the information to get out, but there’s a reason some of us waited before saying anything. Things have been bad in Africa for a long time. That’s no secret. It doesn’t get covered in the West as much as it should so when something like Kony 2012 comes along, it almost seems like there has been an explosion of violence where there was none before. We feel guilty for not having paid attention.

Good.


KONY SCAM by *ramworship on deviantART

But that’s no reason to throw support at a campaign without really knowing what the campaign is about. In this country, we had millions line up to participate in the Tea Party without anyone really knowing until years later that the so-called grassroots movement was actually funded by the Koch Brothers, two men who have worked for decades to promote a highly conservative and fundamentalist agenda, work to dismantle unions, deny global climate change, and lobby for gas, oil, and chemical companies.

In both cases, the same thing happened: someone offered something positive and tugged at the heart. It appealed to emotion. Don’t get me wrong, though. I think we should do all we can to help Uganda. I think the Lord’s Resistance Army is one the great evils of our time.

My criticism lies solely on the people who sold the video to us as a way to help and what they do with the support they get. Our perception of what they wanted to do is great. Let’s stop suffering. What they actually do, though…

It’s using a tragedy to better their own business. Frankly, it’s sick.

For the sake of preventing something like this from happening later, let me lay out what I do with YOUR support, views, hits, and ads.

I pay the rent. I have internet. On the weekends, I buy a case of beer for our D&D games. I have a fiancé whom I wish to support. I have a few thousand dollars of debt for student loans and credit cards that need to get paid off. I’m trying to become a fully independent contractor by writing gaming manuals, novels, and selling artwork. In an ideal world, that would be my sole job. Any support I receive is to achieve that goal.

There’s my full disclosure.

And now, to clean up that much vileness, here’s the greatest Magic the Gathering freak-out ever. Folks, please remember it’s just a game.

Learning How to Spell: The Greatest WRITING Secret

March 8, 2012

Neil Degrasse Tyson narrated one of the most beautiful monologues I’ve ever heard. Superimposing his description of the most astounding fact about the universe was a treat for every science lover out there. In a nutshell, we are all made of star-stuff…

We were made in the same furnaces that created every planet and star in the universe. We are the universe made sentient, creation itself inspecting and trying to understand itself. In the end, we are all connected on a level that defies everyday comprehension.

It’s why I almost became a physicist.

For much of my youth, I had two great passions: science and language. On the one hand, tales of Asimov and Clarke and the great masters of the Golden Age made me want to find out what was out there. I wanted to know the blueprint of reality. I also wanted to create my own stories, make something that thrilled and stirred my imagination like Ellison, Stoker, and the dozens of other authors I gorged myself on when I was younger. That ability to make others wonder, to feel and imagine things that never existed… That was my goal.

I could either study physics and unlock those secrets… or I could learn to write.


Physics by ~Krakrit on deviantART

I chose writing. It wasn’t an easy choice. Freshman year at DePauw, I could have gone into science or English. I chose English. Something occurred to me, something I think is the reason we write, the reason we take photographs, the reason we continue to draw and imagine.

There is truly only one of whatever we make.

We are all made of stars, but there is nothing different about the oxygen in my body versus the oxygen in a supernova cloud. If we erased all of history and every scrap of scientific knowledge to start over, eventually, we would discover that matter is composed of atoms. That future society would emerge from the dark ages and eventually find out that the Earth orbits the sun and we came from monkeys.

But we would not have Isaac Asimov. We would not have John Donne. We would be forever without the works of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. And no one would have known the maniacal face of Spider Jerusalem.


Spider Jerusalem by *akreon on deviantART

There’s bad writing. There’s bad art. That’s a given. But to make something real, something that touches people, is to create something unique and beautiful.

A piece of music that stays with you and speaks to a part of your soul mere words can’t touch.

A poem where every word flows into the other and says more than the sum of its letters.

A photograph where a single moment that will never occur again is forever held behind glass.

Before art and writing, our words just vanished. Our thoughts remained only as long as our memories. Hard facts, scientific constants… those things are universal. They can be found by anyone.

Artists create things that have never been and may never be again.

That’s why I write. I want to learn to say things words can’t convey. I want to imagine pictures that can never be. I want to make others see the world in a different way.

That’s what you do when you write, when you create art. It’s more than the mechanics.

It’s creation.


Creation by ~PhotoshopAddict89 on deviantART

The Fall of the GOP

March 6, 2012

Over the last month or so, I’ve pretty much dropped off the map… and managed to miss the BIGGEST clusterfrak in the history of the GOP. Ever. The whole debacle with Limbaugh and contraception and the hearings with nothing but men talking about ovaries when none of the have been near a vagina since birth…

It’s like when I missed meeting R. L. Stein because I had to work on Saturday. Only worse. And this involves vaginas.

Enough has been said on Current, The Young Turks, Maddow, and everywhere else. Let me just say this.

If you identify as a Republican, please consider that the man who called a woman a slut, a prostitute, a whore, is the de-facto leader of your party. Your political leaders are afraid of him. Even after he mischaracterized birth control and insulted a young woman for wanting nothing more than for her health insurance to cover a medicine that helps balance hormones, he stuck to his guns and insulted her character, insulted women, and made his case that femenists are nothing more than man-hating harpies. Insurance companies, after all, cover things like erectile dysfunction, so why not birth control pills?

An erection, after all, has no point other than to bone. Let us now use bone as a verb…

If a man is allowed to bone on insurance money, why can’t a woman receive a medicine that helps balance hormones and prevents a battalion’s worth of medical problems without being called a slut and a prostitute? GOP candidates were unsurprisingly soft on Limbaugh regarding his statements and subsequent non-apology.

Maybe they need erectile dysfunction medicine for the spine.

Ladies, you don’t deserve this. Limbaugh is not a man. He is a semblance of a person made of oxycotin and lard. He is a man-child who would not know how to treat a woman if you showed him a manual written by the combined forces of 3 billion women. He is everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. He is a misogynistic, racist piece of crap that deserves no pity. Once he is gone, conservative Americans might actually be able to move past this windbag’s rants and actually say something substantial.

As much as I rail against the GOP, it’s not that conservatism by itself is a bad thing. Holding on and remembering the past is a good thing. I think the past should be looked at fondly, but it should not be the only thing that matters. Conservatives of old might have had some points, but today’s GOP is run by Fox, Limbaugh, and the voices of unrelenting hatred.

Maybe this vitriol, as painful as it was, will serve to topple that trinity of evil conservatism.

With that in mind, here’s a video of our medicated puppy trying to get through the day.