The Post-Stupid Year

Sorry, forgot one. I need to include another wish for 2019 … I hope that this the  year of Post-Stupid.

With the success of Bird Box, Netflix has had to issue the following warning regarding the new ‘Bird Box challenge.’

Yes folks, from the civilization that brought you the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Tide Pod Challenge and planking comes an entirely new unnecessary fad, The Bird Box challenge! Here’s how it works: I actually have no idea how it works. Someone please tell me.

Is the Bird Box Challenge real? Is it clever marketing? Who knows. The main point I want to get to is that I wish for 2019 to be the year we stopped being dumb. No more challenges. No more ‘trending on Twitter.’ We’re all people, right? We all want to be loved and respected. There’s nothing creepier than a world that seems to re-route our attention at will, pointing our gaze at the gratiutous, whenever it chooses to.

I’m getting tired of it. I’m interested in people who are tired of it, too.

So let’s make 2019 the Post-Stupid year. No more fads. No more hot buttons. Latest pearl-clutching hot topic on 24-hour news? Not listening. You’re trending on Twitter? That’s nice, don’t care. It’s great that you went viral, but so did syphilis and Rebecca Black. That doesn’t make you a superior human being.

Living in a post-stupid world has its benefits – here are a couple:

  • You save time and energy – no more jumping on the bandwagon or complaining that people on the bandwagon are dumb. Nobody cares. It’s stupid, and we’re post-stupid. Let the stupid take care of the stupid, while we remain unto ourselves.
  • You save money – How much did you spend on ‘raw water?’ How much did those adaptogenic superfoods cost down at Whole Paycheck? How much did you spend on those moscow mule cups you never use anymore? It wasn’t an investment, it was a rip-off. It’s okay to say it, and resolve to put the Amazon Prime account down.
  • You save your health – Social media and fads aren’t just annoying, they’re stressful and potentially hazardous to your health. Nobody said you had to be an ‘Instagram influencer.’ Just relax. Let Kendall Jenner fall into a black hole while you go live your life. I promise you, I like you more than Kendall Jenner already.

Say it with me: 2019 is the Year of Post-Stupid. In fact I’ll write 2019 a few more times to get used to it. Let’s do it together! 2019. 2019. 2019. 2019. There, that should help. Too easy to write 2091 for some reason. Maybe that’s a subconscious wish to live in the future I’m imagining.

Welcome to the future. It’s time to be awesome.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Storytelling – Four Things Robert Zemeckis Teaches You

Baby, it’s cold outside. No, I’m not trying to be a creep, I’m just explaining why I’m inside the house, catching up on a lot of old movies. After all these years, I still enjoy the Back to the Future trilogy, among other classic sci-fi movies.

When you think about the guy who made BTTF, you realize that Robert Zemeckis can teach you a lot about the art of storytelling. I decided to jot down four things that his movies taught me.

Before you say, “But Zemeckis is a filmmaker, not a storyteller!”, remember that filmmaking is storytelling, using light and sound where the rest of us use pen and paper. Before he was a director, Robert Zemeckis was a screenwriter. His ability to craft authentic stories over the past forty years and his insistence on telling stories in a unique way is why Zemeckis will always be one of my favorite directors. 

So with that in mind, let’s talk about four things his movies will teach any person who wants to tell stories for a living: Continue reading

Don’t Tell Me How to Hammer

Dear WordPress –

We interrupt this blog for a quick piece of hate mail for you and this platform I’ve been blogging on for several years now. Not that I think WordPress knows or cares who I am, but I’m pissed off enough to say it anyway. Perhaps it’ll help other WP users who feel the same way realize that they are not alone. Re-inventing the WP editor in favor of this idiot ‘Gutenberg’ tool makes as much sense as re-inventing the hammer for a carpenter. You don’t need to tell me how to hammer.

Since the 80s, people have been tinkering with the UI of a WYSIWYG text editor. I can remember learning to type on AppleWriter years ago, and the commonalities of interface stretched through Wordstar, Wordperfect, Staroffice, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Write, Microsoft Works, Framemaker, Wordpad, and Google Docs. We know you aren’t perfect, and we were prepared to love you anyway, but this is too much.

Re-organizing the entire interface to support ‘media rich pages and posts’ ignores your entire raison d’être: WORDS. That’s your name, isn’t it? WORDpress? Not MEDIARICHPAGESpress. How are we supposed to write words when every single paragraph is in its own little box and all the tools for formatting said paragraphs are buried under an avalanche of non-intuitive clickthroughs that only make sense to people who aren’t actually trying to write?

Fixing this is really easy: give us the option to turn off Gutenberg and go back to the original editor, so we don’t have to run a plug-in to write like we usually do. If you’re so serious about making WP work for media-rich experiences, fork the code and give those black turtleneck-wearing dorks what they want. Give us our word processor back, you evil swine!

I just wanted to get this off my chest. This is why George R R Martin continues to write with Wordstar. Any more nonsense out of you fools, and I’m gonna port this whole site over to Mambo.

Mesh Update #11: New Free Wallpaper

Just in time for the end of the year, a new free wallpaper for Mesh.  I do concept art digital paintings of my stories – helps me inform my writing. For this piece, I wanted to try something different and focus on the characters of Mesh themselves.

Mesh Update #11: New Free WallpaperSo let’s do that. Tina is one of the ‘Snow Foxes,’ an elite group of techno-geeks that dominate the school and virtual reality. Let’s be clear: She isn’t a ‘damsel in distress,’ or ‘born sexy yesterday.’ I hate tropes that perpetuate mean-spirited stereotypes, so Mesh leaves them by the side of the road where they belong.

Tina isn’t perfect. She on the austistic spectrum. She’s also brilliant, athletic, witty, and brave. She’s a teenage girl who codes, plays basketball and practices jujitsu. She isn’t there to talk about the boys, or be talked about them. She’s there to be herself, like every person should be free to be.

Inside the Station, the massive VR system that contains our fearless geeky kids, you’re allowed to create your own sprites. Tina decided to transform herself into an anime princess as you’ll learn in Mesh:


“She looked up at two sprites that had just come through abusy communicating arch. “Watch it. Incoming nerds.”
“Huh?”
“Kids from the other team,” Tina said, morphing into a taller version of herself, now with red hair instead of blonde, and green eyes instead of blue. Her t-shirt melted into modular white plates, forming armor that belonged in some anime show. In the blink of an eye, she transformed herself into a warrior princess, ready for battle. “For these kids, you want to have your war face on.”

“I think I just fell in love with you,” Zeke mumbled.

“You’re cool, my sweet summer child.” Tina’s smile was somewhere between amused and flattered. Then she turned back to the approaching sprites. “Just remember that we’re friends. That’s all we’re ever going to be.”

Zeke nodded, swallowing so hard that his Adam’s apple bobbed like a yo-yo.

Mesh – Chapter 2.6

With that scene in mind, I started working with Photoshop. I started with a free open-source picture from Unsplash and with the help of some visual references and my trusty digital tablet, put the wallpaper above together to give away for free.

Love it, hate it, it’s still worth it to me. Making one thing in one way helps me make something else in another way. I hope you enjoy ‘Armorgirl,’ and the other free wallpapers I have to share.

On Originality in Science Fiction

The following words are criticism of the blockbuster scifi franchise ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins: derivative, borrowed, derived, imitative unoriginal, and copied. Yes, there is very little about The Hunger Games that can be considered new, authentic or original.

But guess what? Nobody cares.

In the world of creative expression, there’s a constant fear that someone will scream ‘plagarism!’ I know I worry about that. Thing is, originality is very subjective. Also, there’s a fine line between ‘original’ and ‘unreadable.’ For example, here’s a completely original story that I just wrote:

Radisarylldon boilty eminfat quitough reever. Donnine, salanded slentereposs chinve papereing and prodlationer admitervel santendaisms agilism overgospecest. Unificanothed fortan crosphing peculatory launhis within his frowskatined auguession aggently abated impredsgusions.

“Chellightly pograpprecling,” she said. “Amsoloblook cropenom dickaggisly uistnin recomms ceptordeemly crystaing whimburg.”

“But idensiter yamantag,” he asked. “Compliceitants dobeakens adulentiones ablemeaggrify sympucky!”

“Nicampting midive elynorms. Robloardintes mooducetter mizincied barban untefuringer.”

There you go, an original story. What’s the matter, didn’t you like it? Well, why not?? It’s original, after all! 🙂

Of course, I’m kidding. I just wanted to illustrate the same point that Ogden Nash made many years ago:


Here is a good rule of thumb; Too clever is dumb – Ogden Nash

And so it goes with all discussions about originality. The Hunger Games, for example, is a clear rip-off of older books and movies … some people want to say that it wasn’t but … whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Suzanne Collins can tell a story that people can connect with. That’s what I want to do, that’s what every author wants to do. More power to her, to them, and to us.

Be original, be bold, be authentic. Be you.

 

Unbelievable Free Author Tools

A common myth among non-writers is that authors’ words just flow from some magical brain faucet with no assistance from anyone, anywhere. I wish! No, the truth is a lot more boring. Authors rely on tools and many of them are free. It’s unbelievable how many of them are out there just lying around. It’s like stumbling on a garage filled with parts, just waiting for a mechanic to go to work.

Well today, that’s you and me. Here are six resources I found and I’ll add more as I go along. Feel free to make use of them yourself as you work to improve your writing:

Wordhippo 

Wordhippo is a thesaurus on steroids. Works great when you’re tired and you can’t think of another way to say “sarcastic.”

List of Adjectives to Describe Tone, Feelings and Emotions
Other Ways to Say “Roll the Eyes”: A Word List for Writers
100 Words for Facial Expressions
Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language
37 Ways To Write About Anger

Got any others? Send me yours and I’ll add them to my list!

More “How to Not Suck” Writing Advice

Just finished reading this Twitter thread about ‘raising stakes’ and story development, from the perspective of a freelance author. I’m passing it along because it’s one more piece of ‘How to Not Suck’ writing advice. You might find it useful, as I did:

Click the box to keep reading – Naomi has some great advice!

Your Writing Sucks – Here’s How to Fix It

“Your writing sucks.” I had to say this to myself today and to be honest, it kind of hurt. Sometimes I have to yell at myself before I’ll get better, and today was one of those days. Happily, that’s not the end of the story. Bad writing is a challenge we all have to overcome, so here’s how to fix it.

Like anything else you make, subjecting it to some simple quality control will shine a flashlight on what is not working. Just like a diamond must be polished, your writing must be stripped of everything that won’t make it sparkle. Where most people would hire an expensive editor, you can do the following four-step process for free. You don’t even need to work that hard, grab a cup of coffee, put on your favorite tunes and get cracking:

  1. Spell-check – Just a simple spell check in MSFT Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, Open Office … whatever tool you’re using. Don’t let a ‘teh’ get all the way to the book store. Fix the stupid little problems here.
  2. Grammarly.com – You can pay for a subscription, or Grammarly lets you copy and paste everything into a free online tool, even if it takes longer. Grammarly will examine your work for spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and other sins of the scribe.
  3. Hemingwayapp.com – Also another free tool that a best-selling author sent my way. Hemingway may not teach you to write like Hemingway, but dadgum if it doesn’t cut through lazy writing than Dawn cuts through grease.
  4. Finally, search your writing for words or phrases you use too often. In my case, my characters kept ‘shrugging’ and ‘rolling their eyes.’ I did a search within Windows and my characters were rolling their eyes every chapter. I fixed that. I have other writing hacks to share here, but that’s for another post.

So there you have it. Yes, your writing sucks. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Bad writing will suck the energy out of your story, and it even makes it harder for you to write because in the back of your head, you know you’ve got this stinky diaper pile of words to clean up. De-clutter, clean up! It’ll actually give you the energy needed to tackle the next draft.

Amazing Author Advice – ‘Book Failure is Normal’

Whoa … just found something that broke my head. A thread on /r/yawriters came up with some AMAZING author advice, and let’s us all in on an important secret: Book failure is normal.

That’s important information for me. Is writing a good move for me, or is it a huge mistake? I wrestle with that every single day. Yet, something inside demands that I push forward, and the advice below made me feel a lot better about my journey. I’m including some scifi concept art I found that I like. I hope you enjoy the art, and the advice:

Some thoughts today about what it’s like to write a great book that never finds a wide audience. Did you know that the 4 books of the Shadow series have received a total of 7 starred reviews? That’s kind of a big deal. And yet… no one’s ever heard of it, really.

We thought Wake of Vultures would land with a splash back in 2015. I went to SIBA, I went to sales conference and spoke w Mario Batali. The book did ok, but not great, was never in Target or the airport, despite amazing reviews. Why? NO IDEA. No one knows! Because publishing.

When you’re a new writer, you think that if you just write a great book and do everything you’re told to, the book will find its wings and soar. You tick all the checkboxes and wait for the world to love your book. Sometimes, even w publisher support, it just doesn’t happen. Continue reading