When I was in college, one of my favorite authors, Natalie Goldberg of Writing Down the Bones, said something that confused me. She cautioned against what she called “goody-two-shoes” writing. By that she meant slavish discipline— writing at the same time every day for a set number of hours because that is what writers are “supposed to” do. She said she had friends who wrote dutifully but she claimed that their writing never improved because they were not truly present in their writing. No genuine creative desire fueled their efforts. For them, writing was just a duty, a frigid, pious chore.
She recommended that if you ever find yourself falling into such a rut, to take a break for a couple of weeks until your mind becomes full again and you find something you really want — or need — to say; then return to writing refreshed.
I liked her insight, yet I was confused. Many prominent authors had cautioned that waiting to be “in the mood” to write was no way to make a living writing; muses were a myth. What made a writing habit, which was almost universally thought to be beneficial for writers, morph into a tedious goody-two-shoes rut? And if I took a break from writing for my mind to become “full of ideas,” what was the difference between that and just putting off writing, which I was in the habit of doing anyway?
The great thing about monsters is that, once they cross, they always leave a door. An open passage to another dimension.
After all, even fiends have to come from somewhere. They have a past. And they are notoriously indiscreet about leaving clues to their origins. Let them rage and howl, screech claws across windowpanes. For all their theatrics, they are as careless as drowsy toddlers. Once they come through a door they always forget to close it. And the opening will always appear if you look hard enough for it.
Crack it wide enough and you will surely find, as I did, a portal to another world. A place where phantasm and reality converge. A dazzling, alarming, illuminating place.
Binary Boy is finally out! In it I venture into classic science fiction territory so steeped in tradition, I found writing about it somewhat daunting at first: robots in space. But I am glad I took the risk. In my version, a deadly virus wipes out the human passengers on a colonial ship bound for a distant planet. Except there is one survivor: a four year old boy who ends up being raised by robots. When the story opens, he is 12. Here is the Amazon description: Continue reading
Like death, I knew it was coming, just not how or when. I had always wondered how, exactly, I would react. Would I escape into the seedy underworld of marathon video gaming? Go to bed for a week and stop taking baths? Regress into childhood? I am talking, of course, about a bad customer review on Amazon.
The two star review occurred during a five-day, free book promotion of my novel The Ghosts of Chimera. When I learned my novel had been slimed, the promotion had only been going on for about 24 hours, which meant that the reviewer would have had to consume my almost 700 page novel in a day — less than a day if she ate meals or slept, and even less assuming she did not download my book the minute it became free. Regardless, the review was like a worm burrowing through my mind, a cold, coiling, slimy thing.
But I did not, say, devour five cartons of Chunky Monkey ice cream or pull out all my hair. I kept feeling like the review had little to do with my book and in particular my experience of writing it. I reminded myself that there were those who had told me they had loved the story, and I did have one glowing review on Amazon to check the blistering one.
I have some exciting news: My novel The Ghosts of Chimera is now free for electronic download and will continue to be free through April 3. Moreover it has been updated since its original release.
The new version has undergone a significant editorial makeover. Although I am used to being able to self-edit and proofread most of my books without a problem, I originally underestimated my typo blindness when it came to proofreading a book that exceeded 600 pages. A reader was kind enough to point out that, while she loved the story, she had found many typos, so I did what I should have done to begin with and paid a line editor to catch what my eyes were missing. Afterward, I combed through the novel several more times myself; I am now absolutely confident in saying that the update is far more polished than the original.
In addition to changes in text, the novel also has a revamped cover that illustrates more about the story and characters than the original did. I particularly love the way the artist rendered my monster character, who is pivotal to the story.
If any of you purchased the original copy of my novel, Amazon provides a way to update it. In fact, depending on your Kindle settings, it might update automatically.
For those of you who have not yet downloaded my novel, now is the time. If you read it, let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you!
There is no clear benchmark for achieving “mastery” in writing. No matter how much I write or study the craft, I will never reach a place where there is nothing else for me to learn.
But is that even what it means to master writing? And would I want that? Having nothing else to learn about writing would be horribly depressing.
A big part of what I love about writing is experimenting, studying my mistakes, and course-correcting. Writing is not paint-by-numbers; it is a dynamic process with uncertainty as a creative catalyst. I build my stories up in layers, never sure until the very end what exactly the final product is going to look like.
I was not exactly trapped. I could leave whenever I wanted, of course. Yet, at one point, missing even a day of checking in with my social media websites triggered extreme anxiety.
Because social media felt compulsive, I would sometimes dream of escape. My thoughts would often drift to the legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Even though he wrote science fiction, in many ways he repudiated technology preferring a simple life; he thought having too many machines crushed passion and destroyed the simple pleasures that made life truly worthwhile: taking a walk, reading a book, or enjoying a peaceful moment of silence.
He drew near-universal scorn when he said, “The Internet is a big distraction. It’s meaningless. It’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.” He also resisted the digitization of books. He refused to have his books printed electronically because he thought a book should be a real object with rustling pages, a physical thing you could grasp, touch, and smell.
I love to blog. For over seven years my blog has followed me through my life, marking meaningful events and shifts in my thinking. It has at times felt like a home where my mind goes to meditate even when I am not actually writing. It feels like so much a part of me, it is hard to imagine a time I was ever without it. I assumed ever since I began blogging that I would be doing it forever.
However, I did originally hope my blog would promote my writing. Although blogging is fun and worth doing for its own sake, I had always hoped that if I wrote for the right reasons, my blog would eventually, somehow, help me sell my fiction.
I dreamed of growing my following so much that I would eventually have an audience for the books I published. Or, if I decided to publish traditionally, I could show an agent how many followers I had in order to improve my chances of success.
I have a happy announcement for the holiday season! My short story collection Remembering the Future is now free for electronic download on the Kindle, so if you don’t have it yet, now would be a great time to get a copy. It will be free for five days starting December 15 and ending on December 19.
Featuring fantasy and science fiction stories with a psychological twist, my book has an average five star rating on Amazon. Here have been some of the comments:
“An interesting read for one who feels he has read everything”
“well-developed characters and crisp prose”
“A mind-bending collection of fascinating and innovative stories”
If you read my stories, feel free to write to me and let me know what you think. Until then, happy holidays!
For most of my life the way I viewed the writing process was destructive to my ambitions. To write freely and learn from my mistakes, I had to jettison beliefs that had blocked me and made me dread writing.
One attitude that fortified my block for many years was a terrible fear of bring trite. To call my work trite was the ultimate weapon of my inner critic; it shut me down completely.
I thought that if a cliché appeared in my work, even in a rough draft, it must mean I was a human cliché myself: a dull, unimaginative, and lazy thinker. So many books I had read about writing denounced cliché users as lazy; in general the authors condemned not just expressions like “dead as a doornail,” “fit as a fiddle,” or “It was a dark and stormy night,” but almost universal real-life situations like a cheating spouse or even themes like good versus evil.