Idle Thoughts Are the Devil’s Workshop

When I’m bored, I often start thinking of really horrible titles for novels. Titles like…

The Bird That Pooped on the Universe

Pwned by the Dragon King

The Funkiest Knight

Slow Fizz Djinni

Oh Shit! Zombies!

But nothing I come up with compares with the best/worst romance novel title EVER. Oh well.

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The Rebirth of Cool, Part 2

My primary goal today, in honor of my father and Ray Bradbury, as part of my attempt to rage against the dying of the light and to rekindle the fire, was to do some writing. I didn’t have any story ideas burning up my brain, which scared the bejeezus out of me, but I desperately felt that I needed to write some prose. So I headed to a coffee shop in downtown Lawrence, got out my laptop, opened up a new document, and said to myself, “Write, goddamn you! Write!” I figured I could at least start writing stream of consciousness and maybe get a halfway-usable prose-poem out.

I’d been looking at steampunk images online earlier in the day and I had the words “clockwork” and “swords” floating around in my head. A character popped into my head, so I started writing about what they were doing. Another character suddenly appeared at the side of the first character. Some action started. And suddenly, I had a plot. When I got 750 words written, I tweeted, “I’ve just written 750 words. Can I make it to 1,000?” After four hours in the coffee shop, I had written just over 2,300 words and had come to love the characters I’d created. I could see where the story was going, I had a good feel for the setting, I had ideas for bits I felt needed to be added to the beginning of the story, and I had lost track of time while writing. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long, long time. I was in the zone.

I get so anxious about writing–about not having anything to write about, about not writing anything good–that it’s often easy to forget just how much I love writing. It was incredibly good to be reminded today. And to be proud of what I accomplished.

Ending the Jam

With everything that’s been going on the past couple of weeks, I realized today I’m never going to catch up with my poem a day project, which I’d already fallen behind on. I’m not giving up on writing poetry (I still owe people poems from last year’s fundraising event), but I know I can’t manage a poem a day right now.

However, I’m still going to work on doing something creative every day, including pushing myself to write more fiction. I recently looked at the notes I’ve written for some stories I have in mind and realized that if I want to write the stories to the best of my ability, I don’t need to do any research and very little prep. Basically, the stories would write themselves. Which gives me no good excuses for not writing them RIGHT THE HELL NOW.

I guess I better get my ass in gear and DO IT, huh?

Those Summer Days

Those summer days were long and weary, but full of the plump expectations of rain and regret that seemed to always punctuate our time together.

I remember strolling down the great, stone steps to the shore, your soft hand in mine, as we chatted about the nights we’d lost to alcohol and fireworks, our clothes heavy with the scents of sweat, lavender, whiskey and gunpowder. You told me about the old priest who had presented you with three keys–one of brass, one of silver, one of salt–when you were just a small girl in a bright-yellow dress. You had heard rumors of the priest moving to the frozen north to be a missionary, but who really knew? You could never remember his name, only the way his large, stonelike hands took yours as he told you of the ancient gods and the endless wars in Heaven and Hell.

We stood on the beach, watching the waves lap at the rocky shore, a shimmering, misty heat drifting from the water. A tear rolled down your cheek as I talked about my youth spent wandering through the labyrinthine cornfields of Iowa, my bare feet sinking in the damp soil, the ragged cuffs of my overalls caked with mud and dust. When the clouds turned to turquoise and the rain fell from the sky like an ocean, I knew I would one day live by the sea, drunk and in love, my heart so full of dreams it felt as if it could burst.

We kissed on the beach as the sea trickled up to our ankles, our tongues and breath intertwined like ivy, until we became dizzy and fell into the sea. The waves carried us out into the cool, dark depths, prying us apart, casting us into the shadowy fathoms.

And now, I stand in my small, attic room in Saskatchewan, looking at a photograph of us standing side-by-side at the entrance to the Viridian Carnival, and I wonder if we will ever see each other again.

Seeking a Partner in Crime

You know how a musician will put an add up somewhere saying something like, “Guitarist seeking musicians to jam with”? This is something like that.

I love writing. Even when a particular bit of writing is giving me fits, I love the act of writing. I always feel much happier after I’ve done some writing, whether it be poetry, prose or blogging.

But in learning more about myself, my habits and my preferences, I’m finding one thing about writing I have a difficult time with. I’m an extrovert. Writing is typically a solitary activity, and I quickly get bored, antsy and distracted when I’m working alone. I love having conversations with people, I love making plans with others and I love collaboration. I think my best work (both personally and professionally) has been work that I’ve done with others.

So I’ve decided to look for another writer who would be interested in collaborating on fiction (both short stories and novels, potentially). I don’t know if there’s another extrovert writer out there who wants to write the same kinds of stories as I do, but it can’t hurt to put myself out there and ask, right? And thanks to the wonders of the internet, I don’t even need to look in my own backyard.

I like to write colorful, trippy, surreal, highly imaginative adventure stories. I like stories about somewhat ordinary people (who are smart, funny and insecure) in extraordinary situations. I like stories with protagonists who are basically good and antagonists who are basically bad. That doesn’t mean everything should be black and white, with heroes who do no wrong and villains who do no right. But I like my heroes to be…well, heroic. I have absolutely no interest in writing dark, gritty stories with morally ambiguous characters. I’m particularly fond of space opera, steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, pulpy stories set in the 1920s-40s and contemporary weird science-fantasy. Politically, I’m a socialist, and my stories tend to reflect that in some way or another.

The biggest influences on my prose are Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel Pinkwater, Leigh Brackett, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Michael Chabon, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, Rudy Rucker, Angela Carter, Brian Selznick, Italo Calvino, Lewis Carroll, S.J. Perelman, Andre Breton, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, All-Star Superman and 7 Soldiers, Warren Ellis’ Planetary, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World & OMAC, The X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Justice Society of America, Scott McCloud’s Zot!, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, G-8, Operator No.5, Doctor Who (both classic and new), Star Wars, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Firefly and Serenity, the animated Justice League/Justice League Unlimited series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Blade Runner, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Babylon 5, Smallville, Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, The Thin Man, North by Northwest and Only Angels Have Wings.

Are you reading this and thinking, “Damn! I want to write stories with this guy!”? Drop me an email. Do you know someone who might think that? Send them my way. I don’t know if this will come of anything, but I hope it does.

A Fragment

I just wrote this, making it up as I went. I don’t know where it came from or where it’s going, but I kind of like it.

I walked out of the bungalow and thought about everything I’d tried to do in my life but failed. Why did I dwell so much on my failures and not my successes? I’d traveled across five continents, taught linguistics and cartography to poor children in underdeveloped regions, helped build aqueducts and courthouses and temples, written liner notes for developing rock bands. But all I could focus on were my failures. Why had I never learned to speak any of the dialects of the Serpentine Jungle? Why had I never written any plays about the lost gods of the southern desert? Why had I never gone back to the Castle of the Jaguar to retrieve my scarlet cloak? I’d paid a fortune for that cloak, and it was very comfortable!

I looked at the tattoo of the cobra on my forearm. I could barely remember getting that tattoo, but it seemed to signify so much: my misspent youth, my time in the Archivist’s Academy, my years wandering through the Labyrinth of the Alabaster Queen. I wondered about my old friend and roommate, Xul the Painter. Had he ever reunited with his lost love, Caroline? Had he unlocked the mystical secrets of the jade box given to him by the old Trotskyite that lived downstairs from us? And what about his brother, Jorge? Was he still toiling away as a minor functionary in the Department of Conflagrations?

I wanted to go back, to return to my home, to make amends and correct my past mistakes. But the paths back were all closed to me. I could never return to what was. My only road lay ahead of me.

I sat on the front steps of my bungalow, my face in my hands, and I sighed heavily.