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The not-entirely-random thoughts of Chris Brecheen about writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Confession

Blogust isn't going so well. I'm not doing so well either.

Here's the truth of it.

It's late in August, and despite dogged efforts to bolster page views, I'm still roughly 400 per day shy of the maniacal goals of Blog. At first that number was easy to face with a sort of "Make it up next week!" type of enthusiasm, but as we cruise into August's 20th day, we are almost ten thousand page views behind where we would need to be. I can keep doing what I'm doing, and I'm going to put on a show, but at the end of the day, unless something I write in the next eleven days goes viral (and there's no way to know what's going to go viral before it does), I'm going to be about 15,000-20,000 page views shy of my goal.

Don't worry. I'm not going to stop blogging or anything. I haven't tossed my Macair into a full bathtub and screamed, "Screw this Popsicle stand!" The wind is just out of my sails a bit. While it's possible to go all night like a lumberjack (so to speak) when one is winning, the fact that I haven't had a day off* in over three weeks is harder to grin through when it looks like I'm just pedaling a flying machine that isn't aerodynamic as it crashes to the ground.

*From blogging anyway. I write every day even when I don't have a scheduled post.

I also did something that I haven't done since Hurricane Katrina and before that during the aftermath of 9/11. I sat around and read everything I could find about current events–specifically in this case the aftermath of Michael Brown's killing and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. There's a lot I could say about how we are NOT in a post racial world, efforts to control the narratives, and how the stories we tell get repeated in event after event (I think a post like that might be coming), but I'll spare you most of it except to say that the suppression of the media has been chilling. And that I want to punch everyone in the face who says the innocent have nothing to hide when the NSA spies on its own citizens but can't see the fucking irony when police confiscate cameras.

Still, I just kept reading. Hours and hours. One story after another. Dozens of them. My head hurt. My eyes burned. But I couldn't stop. I simply couldn't stop.

I can usually hold back the flood of care. My empathy doesn't have a kill switch, but I can usually remember the good things in the world too. I'm like a Facebook feed. One minute there's outrage and then there's a kitten and an ice-bucket challenge.

But today I got stuck. I got stuck in a moment that is going to define us for probably a generation. A moment like Katrina and like 9/11 where we dangle on the edge of a spiderweb-thin thread and our whole society will lurch one way or another. For better or for worse, these are the moments that make us who we are.

Will we have yet another generation of race riots and victim blaming? Will suppressing our civil rights become commonplace when we're too "uppity." Will law enforcement black out the media so that their actions can go unobserved? Is that the kind of people we will become? Or will we embrace the uncomfortable truths that systemic injustice, unequal treatment, that unearned advantages are very real, and that things are deeply, systematically unfair in a country whose principle selling point is a meritocracy.

We are facing ourselves in the mirror these last 11 days and many have realized what some have been screaming all along: that we have a very real racial equality problem in this country. And this is one of those rare moments where we can choose to listen and talk and do something about it.

And I'm terrified that we won't.

So I didn't do much writing today. I just stared at the screen--at story after story after story--and pressed my lips together and hoped beyond hope that the better angels of our natures would, finally, make some real progress in overcoming a bloody and sordid history, and that we could experience that painful progress that is so frustratingly, mind-numbingly slow.

I look down the road and I see a smear campaign against protesters, a young man essentially on trial for his own murder, an exonerated officer, and riots like 92 when I lived near Los Angeles. Then we can blame "those people" for "destroying their own neighborhoods," ignore that patterns of police brutality and the criminal justice system disproportionately affect people of color, and start it all over again. Welcome to post-racial America.

I hope we can consider this instead:

Fidel Lopez was attacked (at the same intersection where Reginald Denny was pulled from HIS car, but a few minutes later). He was eventually rescued by Rev. Bennie Newton. Newton told the rioters: "Kill him, and you have to kill me too."

And then he stood there, keeping a total stranger safe by physically standing in the way of every person that came along, preaching non-violence, even as the riot raged around him.

Newton is as much "Those people" as anyone.

We lose part of our humanity when we paint everyone with the same brush. But mostly we lose entirely too much of our humanity when we chose which brush we paint with, and which we ignore. When a community that stands vigil over its businesses during a protest, throws tear gas away from children, and just wants some fucking answers is lumped in with out of town provocateurs, because that makes it easier and more comfortable to dismiss the whole thing, we have fallen into one of our worst human failings.

We're better than that.

I hope.

If you are reading this late at night on the 19th (though technically after midnight on the 20th) I will be taking tomorrow off. And if you are reading this early in the morning on the 20th, I'm taking today off. I just wasted too much writing time reading, and too much emotion caring. There's just nothing left for twisted threesome jokes today.

I hope you all take a moment to care about the events happening right now that may shape your world for years to come, whether they are happening in your back yard or Missouri or half way across the world in a desert you've never seen, but mostly I hope you don't reduce anyone to blocks of "those people."

If you are a writer, you know that every single one of them has a story that matters.

And I confess, knowing that makes it harder sometimes to hate or blame or dismiss. But you'll be a better writer for it. A better artist.

A better person.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Never a Dull Moment (Personal Update)

Today an appraiser came out to look at the Hall of Rectitude. Apparently if we can get 20% the equity on the holographic battle simulator paid off the bank will reduce some of our renegade plasma cannon dispersal insurance. (I swear you blow ONE hole in a major population center, and everybody loses their shit.) Anyway, on the best days, this place has bits of postage-stamp-sized spandex, thousand pound barbells, and baby toys all over it (I love the squeaky giraffe!), but most of the time there are also half built robots from Uberdude all over the place and random piles of clothes from where The Brain plugged into the Hall's personality matrix and dematerialized from her corporeal form. Since we didn't want the appraiser to have to wade through Wrecking Ball's post work out spandex thongs or end up on the working end of one of The Contrarian's "I AM NOT"s if they tried to move a stack of Baby Einstein videos or something, I've been cleaning like crazy.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning and even woke up early this morning to dive into a little more. We walked around making sure to use our memory eraser flashy thingy on the appraiser every time he looked at the top secret stuff (which was like every five minutes, sheesh) and he said he'd get back to us. Then we headed over to Costco to stock up on protein shakes and martial arts equipment. Also microwavable burritos–because not everyone is a mega lifting, testosterone meat puppet; some of us are sidekicks who like to teach and read and write when we're not "getting our justice on."

Uberdude's latest construction is....well, it's kind of a dick. It walks around trying to get everyone in the Hall to "prove" that they're really alive and not just biological masses of chemicals and synapses that happen to react to outside stimulus. It's not a time sink in the strictest sense, but it's been getting on my nerves.

I start teaching this Wednesday. (And thanks to all of you, it's JUST one night a week and I can focus the rest on writing.) That's not so difficult but getting up and putting on pants for ANY reason starts to feel like an imposition when your life is basically just creative writing. Especially when Uberdude's dick robot is asking you to justify going to work so that other people can make far more money than you from your effort if you're so alive.

And if all that weren't enough, the gear up to this year's burning man has begun. Sonic Gal promises me every year that with her incredible speed, the car will be loaded in seconds, but every year there is some roof jumper or bank robbery right when we get started, and I end up doing it all myself. That might help me with my feelings of isolation, but it also makes me tired and cranky before we even get in the car. This year I've crossed my arms and said that if she wants to go on Wednesday night, instead of Thursday, she's got to do a lot more of the packing. She totally promises me that only an arch villain attacking the city with a doomsday weapon could possibly keep her from helping. We'll see.

So it seems as if my lackadaisical 60 hour weeks are coming to an end.

Ah summer; I shall miss thee.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Disclaimer: Feedback Welcome

Except for Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
That might be....slightly less coincidental.
Consider yourself the beta readers to this work of longer fiction.

The electronic media have one distinct advantage over print media: they can be changed very easily. In the blogging medium, a quick edit doesn't require waiting until the next printing comes out, or even a frantic call to change the galley proofs at the last second. It takes two clicks and an edit.

So why wouldn't I take advantage of the particular strengths of this medium?

While certain caliber of broad thematic or content changes to materials already published would border on unethical, I am willing to make smaller changes of clarity and possibly alter the entire direction of the future of the story.

I'm past the "delicate flower" stage of my writing where I need to be brilliant and I can't handle feedback that isn't complimentary. I can't promise to incorporate all feedback, and I may not fully appreciate it if you decide to deliver it as scathingly as possible. I also suggest that for me to fully appreciate your feedback you may want to edit for the use of words like constructival, dispearages, and lazzy, but I welcome all genuine feedback, appreciate the intention with which it is offered, and attempt to incorporate sincere advice into my development.

I don't make enough money to hire an editor (a content editor or a copy editor) and part of this experiment with longer fiction is to see if I can justify the expense. If so, I will go ahead and drop the cash on future longer fiction works (as well as going back and doing a full edit and revision on this and offering BOTH versions for aspiring writers to compare).

Proofreading- I will ALWAYS welcome a copy-edit. You will never ever offend me by pointing out that I've missed a comma or used a homophone. I'm constantly failing to notice that I've used the wrong its/it's or that I'm missing a word. I'll thank you for the catch and make the edit. There are a few exceptions (rules I meant to break, rules that are in dispute, rules I don't consider important) but most of the time, I'm happy to have the help.

Content- Content is trickier to change mid stream, but I am listening. It is possible I will be able to make some small changes that retroactively change content. I may be able to adjust something in mid stream. Or I may have to incorporate feedback into future writing. It really depends on the nature of the feedback. An annoying habit I know I have of overusing parentheticals is not too hard to weed out. Major thematic or stylistic changes would change the whole tone of the piece.

Disclaimer to the disclaimer (on problematic words and positions): The characters in this story are just that–characters. They are not me no matter how sympathetically I may have portrayed them. They are flawed, human, and they do flawed human things. They hold views I do not agree with and some of them express those views with a seductive eloquence. Despite the comedic nature of this work, it should reflect what society is and not what society ought to be. This isn't a morality tale. My hope is that the ideas like mental health awareness and militarization that I'm critiquing are done so in ways that are subtle enough that they never come across as didactic. (I will fail in this hope, I am quite certain.)

Plus, don't lose hope that some of these characters may come around...or be horribly killed.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Champions of (E)earth.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Champions of dirt Earth earth
by Chris Brecheen

Disclaimer 1 (An experiment in blogging a book)
Disclaimer 2 (Feedback welcome!)

Table of Contents

Act I
Act II
Act III
Act IV
Act V

Reminder: All Fiction labeled "by Chris Brecheen" is the exclusive property of Chris Brecheen. It is intended solely for the non-commercial use of visitors to Writing About Writing and may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the express written permission of Chris Brecheen -- with the following single exception:users are permitted to print out a singe copy of the material for their private use. They may, however, under no circumstances whatsoever reproduce or retransmit any such copies in any form or by any means without the express written permission of Chris Brecheen.

Users are welcome (and highly encouraged) to link to any and all pages at Writing About Writing, and to provide the URL for such links to other persons by any and all means. Use of quotes and links is acceptable. As long as such means aren't deplorably violent nor do they exploit narcoleptics or cheese makers.  Users may, however, under no circumstances whatsoever link to any pages at Writing About Writing within so-called "frames" or employing any other format that may mislead users as to the origin and location of Writing About Writing, or that could in any way suggest that the author of these works was anyone other than Chris Brecheen.

The Next Big Thing

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Anyone following Writing About Writing will, in the next few days, notice the addition of top level menus, disclaimers, and the ground floor of something big. For those on various feeds or e-mail lists I apologize if things get a little "busy" for the next few days. It should die down soon, and all these pages should bloom with content as time goes on.

Those of you paying attention know that I've always wanted to write more fiction, and I've been threatening to put more of it here on W.A.W for a long time. I love blogging about writing, but sometimes, with everything else going on in my life, it does kind of take me away from my fiction. As I've gotten better with time management in the wake of The Contrarian, and my fiction sessions are no longer furtive moments stolen from the insanity of caring for an infant. I can return to many of the long-term goals I have had for my writing instead of just treading water and trying to make it through the next day.

Now that I've basically given up on the traditional publishing industry the question of exactly how I'm going to proliferate and possibly monetize my longer works of fiction has become a question of some concern. I write for myself, of course, but an audience is awesome, and being able to pay the bills would mean I can write more. Of course there is self publishing and e-pub, but I also want to find out if it might be possible to make my writing completely free, save for ads and donations (and hopefully eventually just the donations).

This manuscript is something I wrote the first draft of in high school.

It's probably a manuscript I should bury and chalk up to "a good experience." However, I have a few reasons to put it here on W.A.W. First, even though it's sophomoric to the point of being a little embarrassing, it conforms to the mission statement of Writing About Writing to share the experiences of writing in real time. One of the biggest, most endemic problems among aspiring writers is the perception that writers simply spring forth from genius and "talent." They don't quite understand that years of hard work precede most success stories. The truth is most writers have some horrible first book tucked away that they never could publish and wouldn't want to once they realized how bad it was.

The more important reason is that I want to run an experiment to see how possible it will be to offer my longer fiction as serial posts. If this seems to be successful, I will put more of my fiction up this way and consider e-pub and self-pub as alternatives for those who are willing to drop the extra money to have their own copy.

However, perhaps the most important reason isn't even slightly pragmatic. It is fundamental to me as an artist. I have put this manuscript away in the back of a drawer. Twice. And many are the nights I have woken to the scratching sounds of it trying to get out, its paper claws dragging relentlessly along the inside of the drawer and my mind. I feel like I have to get it out there and I have to get it right, and I'm never going to do the latter if I don't do the former. Somewhere in the twisted landscape of my artistic development, this has become my "first real boss battle."

If my friends were with me, one would hold out their hand to restrain the others and say "We can't help him. He's got to do this on his own."

Since high school, I've completely rewritten this story twice, but it's still pretty rough around the edges. I'll be giving it another major revision (especially since its inception was well before my own social justice consciousness and it has some problematic parts that are going to take a lot of work) and doing my best to polish it.  Though as with all my fiction published here, I welcome suggestions for improvement. That means it's going to come in slowly as I have a chance to revise and polish. I am going to try (with heavy emphasis at this time on TRY) to get a chapter of this uploaded each week, probably on Sunday.