Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Mind Your Own Biscuits And Life Will Be Gravy

It's yet another edition of Writing Wednesday, where your intrepid hero realizes that he hasn't posted anything on his blog in a few weeks and that a large photo of his friend has been the feature photo on the front page of his website for almost a month and it's starting to get weird.

What I'm Reading

The journalist/blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates is someone whom I really respect as a writer and thinker. I became aware of him when he wrote an article for the Atlantic titled "The Case for Reparations." The crux of the article, as is apparent from the title, is that the United States' government should pay all African-Americans a sum of money in reparations for all the years and years of oppression they've faced. This isn't just about slavery (although that is certainly part of it) but the discrimination and oppression that has continued until this day and is so all-pervasive that it's entrenched in everything--right down to the housing market and how towns were designed.

The article is fascinating, and I recommend you read it if you haven't (warning, it's looooooong), but the part that thunderstruck me was the stuff about housing. I had no idea that many cities, towns, and neighborhoods were all white by design. I'm sure I knew some were, just because...obviously since black people couldn't even use the lunch counter in the south for a time, of course some towns would be all white by design.

I had no idea how pervasive or transformative it was.

I actually want to write a blog post about this, so I don't want to go into much more about it right now except to say that I'm currently reading Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. It's a book about how many (the majority) of towns in the United States either kicked all of their black people out in a racially-charged riot, and/or instituted ordinances to keep them out. It was both relieving and equally horrifying to learn that the North was JUST as racist in this time period as the South was. Often we in the US use the South as a scapegoat--"Oh, of course this racist thing happened. It's the south."--because of Jim Crow. But y'all...that ain't the half of it.

What I'm Writing

My friend Emma Maree (@emaree) has convinced me to begin working on a novel. I've had the idea kicking around for a while, and I've done some preliminary work on it a few years ago, but I'm trying to get it outlined and ready to write. This is exceptionally difficult. I think I'm an outliner, y'all. Generally when I write short stories, the ones I complete are the ones I already know where they're going. I have an idea of the main conflict, and so while certain things come up on the fly, I mostly have the structure in my head before I write. A too big for that. Which means LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of plotting, which is broken into small increments stolen in short snatches of time.

I have codenamed the book Werewolf Bar-Mitzvah: Spooky! Scary! because I love 30 Rock and I love that song.

What is it about?

No clue. I'll let you know.

What Works for Me

Limitations seem to work for me. If I have a legit deadline looming, or a firm word count, I will suddenly be motivated to really press to get things done on time, or to really slash and burn in editing.

I have a story that has clocked in at around 5500 words that I've been shopping around. A market opened up that I wanted to submit to, but the preferred upper word count was 4000. Since this story hadn't been having much luck, I decided to try to trim it down.

I didn't get it down to 4000, but I did cut 700 words. That's...a lot. And it's SO MUCH BETTER for it.

I didn't actually end up submitting it to the 4k market, but now I know I have a stronger draft going out. And that makes me happy.

What Else I've Been Up To

In other news: I have discovered I really don't like video games. As I've gotten older, I've discovered that I really have no patience for video games anymore. I have a very particular niche in video games that I can enjoy: Uncharted, Infamous, Tomb Raider. Very story-heavy games with just enough combat to keep you engaged as you uncover more story, and even those I have to enjoy is small bits.

I bring this up because I recently started playing the first God of War--yes, the first one. I've got my finger on the pulse of modern culture, I'll tell ya--and I barely got past the first boss before I was on my feet, going, "Nope, can handle that anymore. Let's go read a book or something."

The combat is sort of enjoyably dumb and easy, but I find myself getting bored really quickly. Maybe it's because there isn't much storey right up front besides Kratos jumping off a cliff? Like, that's not enough to hook me, really, as I don't know who this dude is.

The graphic cruelty that Kratos demonstrates is interesting to me intellectually given the distance in the game's release and my getting to play it. I'll admit that I've played Infamous, and I've played the evil storyline. But the act of getting to choose to do these evil acts and witnessing the repercussions--both good and bad--is very interesting. There was a moment when Kratos found a man desperately clinging to the throat of a giant sea monster. Kratos steals the man's key, then hurls him down the monster's esophagus. At first, I got a little mad, simply because I didn't WANT to kill that man, and being deprived that choice irritated me. I had to remind myself that this was before that kind of game mechanic was really in use much. I'm curious if something like that came into play in later games, or if Kratos is just cartoonishly cruel all the time.

Anyway, as someone who knows nothing about the games, approaching this game with no nostalgia or strong feelings about the franchise at all, after so many years, is interesting. I looked up what this game got originally on IGN: a 9.5/10. And so far....I'm not seeing how.

So, what have you been up to?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5 Reasons You Should Order THE BRASS GIANT

Photo by Brooke, shamelessly taken from her Twitter feed.
If you're not already aware, my friend, Brooke Johnson, has a book out today through Harper Voyager.

I've known Brooke for 8 years now. She's one of my best friends. I knew her when she started writing this book, and I've watched her grow as a writer. I've watched her struggle and fight with all she had to reach this point, and I could not be more proud of her, or more excited for her.

Her book, The Brass Giant, is a steampunk book filled with automatons, bad ass ladies, and government conspiracies.
Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world. 
Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings. 
When Emmerich Goss--handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild--needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she's been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra. 
Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council ... and their automaton is just the beginning.
You should order this book. Some quick reasons why:

1) It's super cheap.

2)  Brooke Johnson is a very talented writer that only sometimes strangles passers-by to consume their writerly Quickening.

3) She is not a squirming mass of scorpions hidden under a trenchcoat and fedora, unlike your favorite author--yes, you know the one--who totally is. I know, right? Who woulda thought?

4) Reading her book could potentially make you live forever. I mean, probably not, but you never know. You haven't read it yet, so that's still technically a thing that could happen. In an infinite universe, where all variations and events are possible, this could totally be the universe where her book makes you immortal. The only way to test it is to order a copy and try it out.

5) You could help in making a young woman's dream come true. Not Brooke. Well, yeah, probably her, too, but there's a young woman that lives in rural Nevada who has dreamed of this moment--the moment when you purchase this book, for her entire life. She's not allowed to influence fate, but she also knows that NOT buying this book is the final event that sets off the unraveling of reality as we know it. She watches you in her dreams, each night, as both sets of events transpire. A duality in her brain, threatening to tear her apart. Which will come to pass. Will you be our savior? Or will you be our destructor?

Further reading about the book and the process on Brooke's blog tour - including a post at the MARY FRICKIN' SUE!!

Order the book at:

Find Brooke online at:
Her Tumblr
On Wattpad (where she's writing an ongoing story: Dark Lord in Training)