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Inspirational Reads


May 29, 2008

Ah, Duke University. I felt kind of bad for you when Mike Nifong dragged the good name of your school through the mud in order to get reelected. Wait. No, that was just the lacrosse team. Duke tried and convicted the team without a trial. I forgot that. Any shred of respect I had for Duke went up in smoke with that little incident.

Now, there's this:

I realize that you have to be pretty smart to get into Duke. I acknowledge that. Also, I have no problem with underaged college kids hitting the booze, especially after the semester has wound down. I mean, I can think of a certain case of Icehouse bought and swilled down in Dekalb, IL that was purchased...shall we say...illegally? Yes, I think that sums it up nicely. So, it's not like I can cast any stones from that viewpoint.

But,'s a clue. If you're an athlete, it might not be the best idea to go carrying booze around. Someone's going to snap your picture. If that someone happens to be in the city where your biggest rival is found, they're going to arrest you as well.

New Duke "football coach", David Cutcliffe, had nothing to say except that the situation will be handled internally. And by "internally", he means that he's calling Archie Manning to see if there's a hidden fourth Manning child that can magically appear in Durham this fall.

Reconnection Time

May 28, 2008

During several stages of my life, I kept hearing the phrase "These are the friends you make for life."

I speak to one friend from my elementary school days, but only infrequently. There's another friend whom I met in the fifth grade before he moved away that I chat with a lot more now that Al Gore has linked us together through these happy interwebs.

My best friend I met in middle school. He's also about the only guy I talk to from high school.

In grad school, I keep in touch with about three of my friends, and only one of those is from my lab group. He and his wife just recently had a beautiful little girl, thus proving that he is, indeed, an excellent organic chemist.

Most of the friends I consider "lifers" come from those halcyon days experienced whilst roaming the halls of St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, IN. I can only imagine that this turn of phrase, "make friends for life," must apply to my college experience. I've mentioned a few of them in this blog already: Will, the man pretty much responsible for my blogging life, and Steve, with whom I lived for a semester. Then there was Young Bob, Fr. K., Matt O., Scooter, Pip, and Mary. Each of them is special and touched me in their own way. Will and Steve were drinking buddies, Fr. K. got me roped into this Catholic thing, Matt O. influenced my musical tastes, Young Bob introduced me to Kevin Smith and taught me new and creative ways of swearing, and on and on. Of these, the most unique was Mary, for the obvious reason: she was the best looking.

Oh, yeah, she was the only girl. Maybe because of this, she was one of those with whom I shared some of my most emotive states. I can't think of anything that I couldn't tell her or wouldn't. She was just that great and easy to get along with. On top of that, Mary only lived about 30 miles from me, so we could meet up during the summer time and hang out. The long car ride across northern Indiana with Mary--either coming home or returning to campus--was the inspiration for the only screenplay I've ever thought of writing.

I'm telling you all of this because I got an email from Mary today. It was nothing much, just a quick note telling me she thought of me the other day. Like I said, it wasn't much, but sometimes it doesn't take much to make someone's day. That's certainly what this quick little note did for me. I hadn't heard from her for some time; I haven't seen her for much longer...probably something close to eight years. The last I heard from her, she was heading to Germany to be with her husband, who was stationed there. To say that I was ecstatic to hear from her again would be an understatement. Where she is and what she's doing (aside from thinking of me while playing a game with her son), I haven't a clue. I just know that I have reconnected with a friend that I held dear, and that makes me smile.

Now, if you'll pardon me for a bit, I've some catching up to do.

Happy Memorial Day

May 26, 2008

Here in the States, it's Memorial Day. This is the one day a year that we set aside and thank the men and women who have valiantly set aside their everyday lives and served their country and her citizenship by either protecting her interests home and/or overseas. It's also the "unofficial" start of summer, but here in the South, that happened weeks ago.

Anyway, my personal connection to the military is several pronged: my cousin Chris served in Afghanistan, my uncle Larry served in Viet-Nam and my grandfather Obe served in WWII. I'm not alone in having connections to the military and its veterans. If you're a member of my generation/age group, then you probably had a grandparent or two who served in WWII. I'm sure we've all had classmates and friends who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. A lot of people have had to endure not having their friends and loved ones come home from their military services; I've been fortunate, and no one in my family has died in the line of duty.

I know very little of any of my family's exploits overseas. I haven't talked to my cousin much since he returned from Afghanistan, and I've never really talked to my uncle about Viet-Nam. My grandfather, also, was rather tight lipped about the tours of duty he pulled in Europe. I guess killing people will make you not want to talk about it. I do know, however, that I had a great-uncle (Clarence, I think it was) who fought in the Battle of the Bulge (or the Battle of the Ardennes), and while he was fighting in it my great-grandfather passed away (on my birthday, no less), and that has been pretty much the most tragic war-story my family has had to endure: Great-grandfather Ivan died without knowing if Uncle Bud (his nickname) had survived the war.

My wife's grandfather was also in WWII, and he served in the infantry. In fact, he was part of the gunnery corps, and (if I remember correctly), they marched up the Italian peninsula, liberating Italy. He eventually made it to Nazi-occupied territory because as he was crossing a battlefield, he came across a German officer and liberated his corpse of the sabre he carried at his side. It's a fucking beautiful sword, with a big, ugly swastika on the pommel stone. When I saw it for the first time (my wife's uncle now has it), it suddenly turned the Nazis into a real enemy, and not just someone who appeared in John Wayne films and history books.

Speaking of John Wayne (my grandfather's favorite actor), he had a role in one of my all-time favorite war films: The Longest Day. I love that movie. It recounts the D-Day offensive from the pre-dawn hours to the fight on the beaches. Whenever I watch it, I think about my grandfather being in one of those planes flying overhead giving aerial support to the troops on the ground.

My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps (a forerunner to the Air Force) and he was (if I remember right) a belly gunner for a B-17 Flying Fortress (like the "Memphis Belle"), and he flew a total of 96 missions over Western Europe. His goal was to get to the 100 missions mark (also called the "Century Club"), but he had been shot down too many times, and so the top brass prevented him from flying anymore. Two missions later, the crew he would have been assigned to was shot down with no survivors. On the return to the States, he was bumped from a flight back home by a ranking officer and had to make the return on a boat. The plane he would have ridden back on went down with no survivors.

Those stories are fairly frightening, but the one story I heard my grandfather tell of his service in Europe really was frightening (there was another story he told, but it was about the first time he had ever seen a transvestite). In one of his bombing runs over the mainland, his plane got shot down. It was over the Benelux countries, and I don't remember which (probably Belgium), but as he and his crew were parachuting to safety, the wind caught him differently and took him into a different area. He immediately ditched his parachute and hid under a bush, where he saw the other members of his crew get captured by the Germans and gunned down on the spot. The Germans than began searching for him, but they went back and forth looking for him for the rest of the afternoon and never found him. Finally, as darkness fell, they abandoned the search and went elsewhere. When he felt it was safe, he began to pick his way through the underbrush. As he was moving along as quietly as possible, a hand reached out from under a bush and grabbed his ankle. He thought he was dead. Turns out, it was a member of the Belgian Underground, and they helped get him back to the lines where he went back to England. I think he might have actually flown a few more raids after that, but I'm not certain. Apparently, the night my grandmother died, he sat up with my mom and told her everything he saw in Europe. Unfortunately, she didn't write them down, and has since forgotten them. He died in January of 1989. Sadly, this is the only story I'll know about his time in the war, but it is one helluva story.So, if you know a veteran of any of our wars, think about them today. If you know someone who lost a loved one in any of our military actions, think about them, too. As I said earlier, I've been lucky that none of my family has ever not returned home from military action. I'm not going to get on a patriotic soapbox here, but whether you're a supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, please think of the people who are out there fighting and remember the bravery and nobility of those people who have offered their lives up as the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I know I'm thankful for all they've done.

Review Time: Indiana Jones Style

May 25, 2008

I went and saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night. I was aquiver with excitement, and, frankly, I was not let down. But then again, after three Star Wars prequels and X-Men 3, my expectations were low.

First, just let me say, when I talk about something, I try not to ruin it for other people. I don't want to know anything about the plot or the outcome of the movie when I go in, and I treat everyone else to the same courtesy. Seriously. I didn't speak to a friend of mine for like, four years, because he told me that Qui-Gon got killed at the end of Phantom Menace.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, and I came in a little worried about the subject material. Suddenly, Indy wasn't jaunting about the Middle East looking for Biblical artifacts, but he was involved in something a bit more...paranormal. Paranormal probably isn't the right word, since the Biblical artifacts also exhibited plenty of paranormal activity. But where the Bible is usually identified as a legitimate (albeit controversial) historical document, there's really not a lot surrounding the Crystal Skulls, other than archived episodes of Coast to Coast with Art Bell (which was one of my favorite shows to listen to during those final few months of my graduate work, as I was typically up all night doing thesis writing and NMR collecting). However, from what I understand of the Crystal Skulls, the legends pretty much fit in with the plot of the movie. I did like the inclusion of the Nazca lines into the story, however, but that's just me.

Despite this apprehension, the latest installment in the Indiana Jones movies does not disappoint. Harrison Ford seems to have stepped back into his role almost seamlessly, and though there are moments when he seems to be pushing the humorous lines a bit too hard, he continues to be believable as the world's most renowned stud archaeologist. There were times when his normal charisma did not translate to the screen, but when the move was finished, I left the theater once again thinking "Fuck this chemistry stuff! I wanna go dig shit up!"

Karen Allen looked good. Maybe not as good as when she was dropping a shirt down over her bare ass in Donald Sutherland's house, but those were several years ago. Her character, Marion, however, doesn't seem to have the seamless entrance back into the world of adventure like Indy did. Given her role in the plot, this, also, seems plausible, but her character suffered the most from the lack of development.

The true surprise--for me, at least, as I was unfamiliar with his work--was Shia LaBeouf. He was believable in his role as "Mutt", and worked into the plot easily. As far as a sidekick, he was much more believable and capable than Short Round--not to mention far less annoying. Another pleasant surprise was Cate Blanchett; even though I'm not a big fan of hers (I don't know why, I'm just not a fan), she does a decent job as the main villain in the story, though you never truly feel menaced by her presence on the screen. Only once did I want to make a Lady Galadriel joke, which is good for me.

At times, the story was a bit too goofy and some of the events were far to coincidental--the tree and the river being the one that really made me roll my eyes (if you've seen it, you know what it is) and the sudden inclusion of Spider-Man to the cast of characters (again, you know what I mean). Other times, you could tell that most of the set was done in a room on a certain ranch in northern California. Unfortunately, even Spielberg's mastery couldn't keep the stink of Lucas' touch from this movie, and were again treated to sweeping, obviously faked vistas. Also, it's good to see that Russian soldiers aren't any better shots than Stormtroopers or Nazi soldiers. BUT, the action is constant and solid and enjoyable, though the dialog is, well, what you'd expect from a movie where George Lucas had any input.

Overall, I really liked the movie. I liked it much better than the three Star Wars prequels--combined! If you're a fan of Indiana Jones, well, you've probably already seen it. If you're a fence-sitter, unsure of whether to see it or not, you should see it. Overall, it's an enjoyable movie, just remember to bring along quite a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief. It won't win any awards, but I can almost guarantee that it'll be a better X-Files movie than the X-Files movie that will be in theaters later in the summer.

But I Won't Do That

May 20, 2008

In the near future, I'm going to take a whole bunch of unanswered questions from the comments section and answer them. Since I have the email alert on to tell me when I get a new comment, I usually feel kind of putzy when I comment on my own blogs. I don't know why.

Tonight, let's focus on the books I am preparing for down the line, after The Boar War gets published. As I'm reading through King of Shadows (admittedly, slowly), I keep thinking about how the story will play out and what I don't want to do with the books (and any future books after The Hundred Kings Saga is played out). I broke them down into four major areas, which I've labeled as "syndromes" and then there's some smaller, more bullet point things I don't want to do.

Without further ado...

One--The Herbert Syndrome: This is actually the name of a trend that sometimes crops up in this genre (and by "genre", I am using a very broad paintbrush and labeling Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror/Supernatural Lit as one genre...and after that, let's put in a big ole tree right there). Symptoms of the Herbert Syndrome usually are exhibited by series that tend to go on far too long, in order to make a little more money. The Syndrome is named for Frank Herbert, the writer of Dune, who cranked out a few more books well after the interesting stories had already been told, such as God Emperor of Dune, which, as near as I can tell, simply recounts the mad ravings of Leto, who turns into a worm, and is most likely the mouthpiece for Herbert's own philosophies in life. Other examples can be seen with Robert Jordan's Eye of the World series (more on him later), Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth, the Star Wars Pre-quels and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, with all apologies to Kevin Smith.

Two--The Jordan Syndrome: Named for Robert Jordan, this syndrome could be an off-shoot of the Herbert Syndrome, except where the Herbert Syndrome might see several years between stories, the Jordan Syndrome is a more consistent, every-two-years sort of affliction. The Jordan Syndrome's chief symptoms are long stories in which nothing happens. Entire chapters are sometimes dedicated to simply going from one place to another, or worse, sitting in one place making plans to travel to another place. Another symptom is that the beginning of the series and the ending don't really match up, and things that once were important in the beginning are forgotten about in the middle and then suddenly (and often awkwardly) are thrust back into the story at the end. Lack of continuity kills stories, in my opinion *cough*mitichlorians*cough*

Three--The Epic High Fantasy Syndrome: This is far too pervasive to credit to one single author, so I'm giving it a generic name...just like the characters often found in these stories. The symptoms of this are often multifaceted and, sadly, some of them can be traced back to Tolkien. Often the characters will each have their "specialty" weapon, such as swordsmen, archers, mages, axemen and thieves--sometimes I like to think of stories that feature groups of warriors like this as Final Fantasy Literature. With every turn of the page, I'm expecting a character to open a treasure chest and discover silver armor within. Blech. Also, the protagonists fight for the side of good and right and justice and the antagonists do things because they are evil. No one is ever self-serving in these types of stories. There is no quest for power, or money, or women, or know, real reasons to start wars. The antagonists are often the willing pawns of demons and always have an army of orcs goblins at their back provided by the demon, and the antagonist does everything just to be evil, and often declares to his associate (sometimes actually named Igor, or some other variant) his "evil plan." Also, these stories are typically littered with protagonists who are egregiously noble, with excellent posture, long hair that never dirties, and speak in archaic forms of English, peppering their sentences with "thees" and "thous" and "haths" at every turn of a comma. Female characters are always beautiful sexpots who wear very little clothing and tend to fall down a lot. Also, the landscape is typically overrun with elves and dwarves and halflings that run around barefoot...but aren't Hobbits. Seriously. They aren't. Dennis L. McKiernan is a very notable purveyor of this very bland type of literature.Four: The Eddings Syndrome: This is perhaps the worst one, in my opinion (though writing out three did leave a sour taste in my mouth). The Eddings Syndrome is named for David Eddings, and it is simply the constant recycling of characters and story lines under the guise of a new series. Yes, the characters in The Malloreon were mostly the same as in The Belgariad, but those stories were supposed to go together (this doesn't excuse the characters from being very one-dimensional, but, given the plot, this worked...sort of). However, it was vastly inexcusable when in a different series (the one with Sparhawk that I've all but completely forgotten) the author even admits that the two blue stones brimming with mystical power from the two different series are the same fucking stone! Oh, what do you know, they were also both used to kill the enemy gods! If it worked once, right? Ugh. I do have a series planned for after The Hundred Kings Saga that takes place in the same land, but they are vastly different stories filled with different characters (which, given the bloodbath that occurs at the end of the book...there needs to be new characters...). And, just so you know, there are no blue stones.

A few of the other things I want to try and avoid:

-Clever Invention: This is where the author inserts something into the story--a character, a mystical power--that wasn't there in previous chapters or previous books. Sometimes, the explanations are a touch soap opera-y. What? You had a sister? Oh, yeah, she was locked in a convent. But she's back! Alright, then. No further questions asked.

-Uh, Whoopsy!: This is where an author says or does something and then is negated later in the story arc. The most notable instance of this that I can think of is with Robin Hobb, when Fitz said he never lived at Buckkeep ever again...only to move back there three books later. It was a minor thing, but still annoying for someone who writes as well as she does.

-500 Names, 1 Character: I'm ragging Robert Jordan tonight, but I can't stand how every single female character in his stories is a stubborn bitch who thinks she's right about everything. He says he modeled all his female characters off his wife, so I can only assume she's a demon in the sack. Also, a lot of Jordan's male characters are exactly the same, too. But the women are the most notable examples.

-500 Characters, 1 Name: I loved Melanie Rawn's first two trilogies. They were really well-written with good, character-driven plotlines. Unfortunately, everyone had the same name, or very close variations of the same name. I understood why she did that, but it did get a little annoying (especially when you thought someone was dead).

-Føŕęĩģň Ŝþęĺļíŋģş Åŕĕ Ç∞ĺ: Look, I love Tolkien, but if you need a pronunciation guide to go with your story, you're trying too hard. Does it matter if the reader pronounces it /Keleborn/ in his head as opposed to /Seleborn/ or /Her-in/ as opposed to /Hyoor-in/? When you read my books (if you do), feel free to pronounce the names anyway you want. If you want to substitute in "Slappy Jack" for "Luca", be my guest! Also, littering your character and place names with ex'tran'e'ous punc-tu-a:t^ion! gets annoying.

So, there you have it. A couple of lists of things I'm trying really hard not to do. I've got notes of some of the smallest minutiae that take place between characters to avoid any sort of violation of these guidelines that I've placed on myself. This means, of course, that I'll screw up somewhere along the way and someone will point out a glaring error and I'll hate myself for it.


May 17, 2008

My daughter, Cookie, knows that I've written a book. She asked me today if I was going to make another book. I told her, yes, but that I also need to fix the books I already have. This astounded her.

However, it apparently also seemed to inspire her.

She started making her own books. This is not a new thing. She made a picture book about a year ago about a Princess, and she "read" me the story by describing the action on each page. It was cute and sweet all at once.

Well, now she's moved on to chapter books. She spent most of the day drawing and coloring the covers for her books, which is, naturally, the most important part. She has a whole series--I believe nine in all--of books, revolving around fairies and horses. Throw in basketball and Nancy Drew, and you've got a few of her favorite things.This evening, after she took her shower, she spent a good 30 - 45 minutes wrestling with MS Word trying to get her story just perfect. The major problem was, she didn't have titles for her chapters, so she worked on those, all the while mastering the art of changing the colors of the fonts as well as the sizes. For good measure, she's also now familiar with centering text. Being the good father that I am *stifles laughter*, I tried to be as supportive and helpful as possible. At times, she was getting very frustrated with the program as she was trying to type. Me saying "Welcome to the world of computers, kiddo" didn't help the situation much. In fact, it seemed to worsen it. Fancy that. I also broke it to her that most authors have a notebook where they write down important things, like the names of their chapter titles. So, now there's a spiral bound notebook with two of her chapter titles jotted in them. I should follow Cookie's lead here...

So yes, now I have some competition in the family. It's not just me writing (the buxom and comely Boudicca will also, from time to time, work on a book as well), but it's also Cookie. For reference, I didn't start seriously writing books and stories until the third grade (where I started adapting and expanding upon Greek mythological stories...I remember Orion and Perseus figuring heavily into my tales). Cookie is about to finish the first grade. Nothing like getting a jump on prodigy, eh?

A Random Thought

May 16, 2008

You know...the Beijing Olympics better have an epic fireworks display for the opening ceremonies. I mean, seriously, they better make Gandalf's CGI display from The Fellowship of the Ring look like a party favor. I want to see fireworks dragons wrestling in the skies over China, and maybe throw in some sharks. With freakin' lasers on their heads. Yeah, fireworks dragons fighting hammerhead sharks.

Make it so.

Like a Stalagtite...

...I'm still hanging around!

*rimshot*taps microphone*

Seriously, is this thing on?

I haven't felt very write-y lately. Plus, anything that I would have penned would have been desultory posts bemoaning the sad state of affairs inside my flasks in my hood, and no one really wants to read that. So, most nights I've been sitting around feeling sorry for myself (case in point...the other night, I had a pint of Phish Food for dinner...yes, Dr. C, I'm serious about losing weight!), plus last night I had no cable, no computer and no phone. So, not only did I not get to lose myself in television (I missed the season finale of Smallville *sigh*), I also didn't get to cruise around the interwebs, answering trivia questions on my quest to a million (fifteen questions at a time...), and I wasn't able to call any of you, so if your phone didn't ring, that's why. Blame Time Warner Cable.

I will insert here that I have yet to hear from the agent, which means I haven't been rejected yet. Sweet. There is a note on their website saying that they are very busy right now, so I'm being patient. It's a virtue, and given the past few weeks, I need all the virtue I can get.

Anyway, I'm coming out of my chemically-induced haze funk, so I'll be doing a bit more updating. If I could blog on the commute in during the mornings, you would have gotten three today (at some point, I'm going to get an ipod and listen to podcasts on my way in, á la Rider's suggestion). This also means a lot more gratuitous images of Leelee Sobieski.
Mmmm...gratuitous Leelee Sobieski...


May 6, 2008

Do you remember what you were doing ten years ago, today? I don't remember, either, except that I know I was four days away from graduating from St. Joseph's College. I'll hazard a guess and say that I was drinking beer while on the toilet shitter in the Gallagher 1st middle stall, drinking a beer in my dorm room, Gallagher 117, doing something stupid and druken with partner-in-crime Will Shannon, and probably planning another clumsy, awkward pass at Jamie Bach[1] later in the day. I think I might have also destroyed a phone against the exterior of Gallagher Hall later tonight, and I'm also going to guess that there was, at some point, a drunken trip to the Trail Tree in or Grandma's late in the night for either a Big T Trucker Sandwich or Biscuits and Gravy (and an eggy sandwich if a certain priest-to-be came with us).

The reason for waxing nostalgic is that today is the 10th anniversary of Kerry Wood striking out 20 Astros in Wrigley Field. This instantly put his name on the baseball map and made us all wonder just how many World Series rings he would bring to the North Side of Chicago[2]. Unfortunately, as productive as Wood was/has been striking guys out, he's been just as productive when it comes to injuring himself. Elbows, wrists, shoulders...everything on Wood's body seems to have broken down at some point during his career. Blame Dusty Baker if you want to (and I do), but some of Wood's injuries have been completely non-baseball related, such as injuring himself in a hot tub.

Despite all this, Kerry Wood remains one of my all-time favorite Cubs players. I don't know why, either. Maybe I'm still locked in the nostalgic hope of seeing him achieving his potential. Maybe I keep thinking that some day he'll wake up, hop out of bed and decide that today is the day he's going to strike out 20 batters again (which would be really difficult, since he's been relegated to the bullpen these days). Maybe because his marvelous feat of 20 strikeouts came in those waning days of my college career, when things were looking most hopeful and promising and I had the whole world figured out. Maybe seeing Kerry Wood pitch takes me back to a happy place that I have locked away inside of me. I don't know, but he is, without a doubt, my favorite baseball player. Here in the Triangle, there is a city called Cary and, in Cary, there is a road called Cary Wood Dr. Ever since I saw that, I have looked for an affordable house on Cary Wood Drive, just to say I live there, because that would be so fucking cool, and all because of Kerry Wood.

Wood's career has been one of unfulfilled potential. However, if you look at the recent spate of baseball news and think back, Wood (from Texas and a high-strikeout pitcher) was compared to Roger Clemens (from Texas and a high-strikeout pitcher). It was thought their careers would follow similar paths and Wood would be racking up Cy Young's along with wins and World Series titles. Fortunately--thankfully!--it seems that Wood is nothing like Clemens, as the injury-prone body and extended stays on the DL would point toward a lack of using steroids and HGH, and, well, there doesn't seem to be a string of trashy women with hordes of skeletons stashed in their closets following Wood around.

For all the bad that has surrounded Kerry Wood's career, I'll never forget looking up through my Miller-Genuine-Draft-inspired haze and saying, "Holy shit, Will, this guy's struck out 20 batters. Hand me another.[3]" So, Kerry, here's to you, man. Happy Anniversary.

[1]: In case you were wondering, she looks a lot like the Snorg Tees girl, just with a smaller chest and incisors and a stronger proclivity to wearing knee-high stockings and very short skirts.
[2]: That would be a big, fat 0 and counting...
[3]: Obviously, nowadays, it would be most appropriate to toast Kerry's feat with a 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Brewery, as it's 20% ABW. That's 1% ABW for every strikeout. I can do math, me.

Beginnings and Endings

May 2, 2008

I need a notebook.

Well, I already have a notebook. At work, I have two, one for each facet of the project I'm working on. I also have a notebook with the entire prologue to The Boar War written out in pencil that I scratched out while visiting my sister-in-law and her husband (which would be my brother-in-law, but being as how they're from Atlanta, I didn't want any incestuous overtones to maybe leak through by accident). I have one filled with a hundred different nuggets and notes and characters relationships for Thistles et. al. The problem is, I didn't have it the other day when I really needed it.

I have a fairly long commute in the mornings, which is broken into two legs. The first, I take my daughter to her school, which is about a 40 minute drive. The second leg, which occurs after a ten minute sit in line at her school, is about 30 - 40 minutes to work. It wouldn't be nearly as long, but no matter which way I go, I'm stuck sitting in standing-still traffic for what probably equates to 10 to fifteen minutes. That's one of the joys of living in a community/urban area that has expanded faster than the civic engineers could cook up new ways of fucking up the traffic patterns which roads needed to be expanded to accommodate all of the cars trying to get into the handful of places where businesses are in this area.

As you can probably guess, I think a lot on these long commutes. Yes, I should be paying utmost attention to the road, but my mind tends to wander. Sometimes I think about what I ate for breakfast, sometimes I think about what reactions I need to do at work, sometimes I think about coffee, sometimes I think about what a fucked up mess Kelvin Sampson left the Hoosiers. A lot of time, though, I think about my books and the stories I still have left to tell (which, as you might guess, since I run a blog...I like telling stories).

Sometimes, these stories seem like and endless loop. In theory, that's how I like to think of them, anyway. I mean, something happens to the characters in their world after the words "The End" have been typed on the page (more on this in a moment). However, if something happens after the story ends, that necessitates that something had to happen before the story's beginning. In my stories, time is just as endless as it is in our world. I was pondering the beginning of King of Shadows, and I remember one of my friends once saying, "Well, it took a little bit to get going, but once it did, everything was very good."

I didn't like this. For one, the first chapter is long, and it does take a while to get through the whole opening scene where the main character is riding home from a war. As I was pondering, I came up with a new way of delivering the opening scenes, but delivered through a dialogue-heavy series as opposed to the long paragraphs and passages that currently open the book. As I cooked it up, I knew it would need some polish, but I was excited.

Then I went to work, and promptly forgot most of what I wanted to write.


I went back the other night and re-read the ending of The Boar War (in case anyone's forgotten the score, The Boar War is the manuscript currently being reviewed by my potential agent), based largely on my wife's reaction and her favorable comparison to the finale of the Harry Potter series. I hate to brag, but, she's right. It is a good ending. I really like it. One of my main influences in my writing style is Tad Williams. One thing that Tad does really well is weaving together several storylines into one great finale. Not that I'm anywhere near the same class as Tad, but I think I was able to bring together the three main plotlines and tie them up nicely. Even the denouement chapter worked out rather well.

I, personally, hate happily ever after. This is another thing that I credit to Tad. I read in an interview of his once, and he described how life doesn't end for his characters at the end of his books. Not everything that happens is going to be good for them. I took this to heart, and so whenever I go about writing an ending to my stories, I always leave a little bit of antagonism hanging in the air. For instance, I'll kill a hero or leave a villain alive, or I'll leave a place destroyed so that there's going to be a lot of work to be done rebuilding it. I want my readers to use their imaginations to figure out what happens next. Basically, in this age of blogs and message boards, I realize that people are going to discuss what happens after the story ends. So, I like to leave a few things open for discussion.

One things about endings, though, is that they're always bittersweet. It's a great feeling to finish a story, but at the same time, the story is over. Sometimes, it's difficult to determine exactly how to finish off an ending. Unfortunately, in the world of writing books, you can't just cop out and pop up a picture of Leelee Sobieski.