"I shall try to be less rigid in my thinking."

I’m back after an extended shore leave. And yes, I brought back lots of excuses…

"Worst. Vacation. Ever."

Excuse #1:

I’ve been traveling (with small children in tow)!

"You are so taking us to Disney World."

Excuse #2:

We moved into our house (small children still in tow)!

"Honey? I think we need a new boiler..."

Excuse #3:

A Dance with Dragons finally came out (children jettisoned due to violence and chain mail)!

"Worth the wait!"

Excuse #4:

I’ve been getting ready for Shatner’s documentary, “Captains” (Quiet! Shatner is about speak)!

Take the punk out, Bill! Give him the "Kirk Double Handed Axe"!!!

Excuse #5 (and the main reason):

My computer finally died.

"But I was using Linux!"

The fan on my laptop was shot, meaning it would overheated faster than a Vulcan during Pon farr.  Cheap bastard that I am, I just tried to type as fast as I could before it would shout down every fifteen or twenty minutes.

Yeah. That worked great.

Luckily my wonderful family got me a Mac Book as a father’s day present.  Well, they tried to. I kept putting it off.

Why?

For starters I’ve been using a PC my whole life so there’s has been a bit of a learning curve. Also, Apple is a closed system. Meaning that it doesn’t play well with others. Sort of like North Korea or the Romulans just with nicer curves and more apps.

And speaking of Romulans, up until short time ago I’d always been part of a company or group that were all on PCs.  So having a Mac would have been like when Kirk had “Vulcan” ears.

"I'll get you an iPad right away, Captain."

But the main reason I waited so long is because I didn’t want to be labeled a “macboy“.

That smug little snot who frowns at anything not from the almighty Steve Jobs:

I'd sooner where a Next Generation jumpsuit.

“I don’t have to worry. Macs never get viruses.”

“What is taking you so long? OS X is so much faster.”

“Firefox? Safari is so much more intuitive.”

Ugh.

They all need a good old “Kirk double handed axe” to the back!

"This is for having no 'left click'!"

And now I’m going to be labeled an “Apple fanboy” the minute people see me with this shiny, silver laptop with an apple on it that’s missing a “left click” button.

But I could be labeled worst things…  Like an “Enterprise” fan.

Seriously. I can't even enjoy "Quantum Leap" anymore because of this.

But honestly I’m the one sticking labels on people. “Mac Boy”, “TNG Geek”, etc.  And that got me thinking about genres and how we so quickly label something.

Or at least try to.

I just read a really interesting book called “The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman
that I found sitting in a display labeled “New Science Fiction” at my library. (Yes, libraries still exist!)

But I wouldn’t call “The Half-Made World” science fiction. Nor is it fantasy. It’s kind of a Western but takes place in another world. I imagine most people would call it “steam punk” but that would be like calling “Balance of Terror” a rip-off of “Run Silent, Run Deep” when really it has so much more–

Yeah. So…

If I had to put a label on it, I’d call it a “horror-fantasy/western” with strong elements of steam punk.

Sure.

Go find that section on Barnes & Nobel. (Notice I didn’t say Borders? Nook doesn’t look so funny now? Huh?)

Naturally, self centered as I am I got to thinking about my story, “Confederacy of the Damned” that I’m planning on putting up on Amazon.

“Confederacy of the Damned” is a Western with elements of horror and science fantasy. The way I describe it is, “Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft had tried to write a Western for Sergio Leone.”

"No, really... This could work."

Yeah.  I know…

What genre is that?

Who is your fan base? 

How the hell are you going to label that on Amazon?

I guess I’ll put it in horror… And westerns… And action. Maybe I should I put it in science fiction as well since the “zombies” aren’t really zombies but actually–

What I’m trying to get at is if I do label it in those genres am I going to just piss readers off since it doesn’t really meet all the tropes of any of them?  Are they going to expect a straight forward western and flip out when zombies (who aren’t really zombies) show up? And will the horror people be turned off by the action and romance?

How pissed off are you when you open a book (or go to a movie) and are expecting one thing and it turns out to be something else?

Can you think of any examples when this has happened and it was a good thing?

Would love to hear about either.

(And who needs a stinkin’ gun when you have the “Kirk Drop Kick”?)

One word: SWEET

"No blah! Blah! Blah!"

Three weeks since the last blog!

A new record… In the wrong direction!

"They appear to be old drafts of blogs?"

FAIL!

But, as you know,  “failing” isn’t so bad.  Which is a good thing for me.

One of the things I hate about blogging is that you’re supposed to always be posting. And it seems the amazing online marketing strategist Tommy of Tommy.ismy.name thinks so too:

…churning out at minimum 5 blog posts a week (and I do). What’s worse, is if you want to be “taken seriously” as a blogger, that’s the minimum.

But what does this do really? It encourages people to crank out more half baked thoughts than fully developed ideas. Which creates a lot of noise and clutter, which makes it harder to find the stuff worth reading.

Five times a week?

How the hell does he do it? I don’t do anything that regularly in my life.

(Yes, I know I should eat more fiber.)

I’d be happy to just post something twice a week but I can’t even do that!

Hell,  The Adventures of Superhero Girl, which is one of the most awesome sites on the Internet,  is posted every Tuesday and Friday and it’s a comic!

And she has to draw and write it!

What do I have to do other than grab some “Star Trek” pics and then come up with some lame quotes to go under them?

And I can’t even do that on a regular basis!!!

"Three weeks? Dude... That even makes us look cool."

(Actually it seems that Faith Erin Hicks, the creator of Superhero Girl,  draws the comics in advance, a few months ahead of time. So she’s not only amazingly talented but also incredibly smart. Unlike yours truly.)

Look, I’m not saying my blogs are masterpieces but I want them to be decent and if not enlightening then at least somewhat entertaining.

So I’m going to take my time with them.

Serve No Blog Before Its Time.

Remember how I  posted about how horrible typewriters were? Well, while I’d still rather French kiss the Tellarite Ambassador Gav before going back to working on a typewriter,  I have to admit there may have been one good thing about typewriters:

They made writing just difficult enough that you really had to want it.

"A Smith Corona or some tongue?"

Back then if you wanted to look professional and be taken seriously your stuff had to be typed. And typing was a skill most people didn’t have!

You either had to pay someone to type it for you, which wasn’t cheap, or more likely (especially if you were a twelve-year-old kid) you had to type it yourself.  Which meant a lot of time and even more correction fluid.

And if you did manage to type your story then you’d have to make copies unless you wanted your only copy getting lost or eaten by your brother’s crazed dog.   That meant the “Xerox machine” at your library,  if your library even had one, or even worse you’d have to use carbon paper while typing!  (Fun fact for all you youngsters that’s where “Cc” comes from!)

You had to REALLY want to write something back then. You had to be passionate about it.

You had to get that story out and nothing was going to stop you!

Not that horrible manual typewriter.

Not that lousy copier at the library.

Not your brother’s paper eating retriever or even your brother telling you that the story you were writing  was a complete rip-off of episode #204! Rip off? Ha!  What did he know? He wasn’t even a fan of “Star Trek”.  He didn’t even read Science Fiction!  Besides, my story was so completely different!  It was SO cool. My main character had–Yeah… So, I was saying…

Typewriters were good because they were so bad that it made you have to really want to write and work at it.

And, yes, I know I  blogged before about writing being fun and turning off your inner critic BUT at some point you have to turn that critic back on to make sure your not just spewing the sort of half-assed garbage you see on some blogs and websites out there.

And I’m not just talking about the amateur stuff either.  There are a ton of “professional” blogs and e-books and websites out there that are just plain horrible.  They don’t even put up lame pics with captions!

But I’m not going to post any links to bad blogs and/or e-books…

Although maybe I should.  It seems a negative review can help you go from 50 daily visits to 194,000! (Scroll down and read the comments to see how not to handle a bad review.)

No, I’m not going to sit here and bash other sites. That’s not why I started this blog.

So what is this blog for?

Oh, yeah!  For us to find our inner Kirk to help us with our goals in life!

Well…  That ain’t been happening either folks!

PROCESS NOT PRODUCT

Remember how I said I was going to stop working on my science fantasy epic by hand and concentrate on converting my script into an e-book?

No? Don’t remember that one either? Huh.

Well don’t worry about it because I FAILED…  Again!

“I’ve taken how long to blog?”

I’ve been stuck on a scene for over a week and it’s been driving me nuts.  I just couldn’t get it right.  Nothing was working.  Finally my wife said to me, “Why don’t you just work on your other story for a while?”

Yes! What a good idea.  I knew I didn’t just marry her just because she looks great in a yeoman’s costume.  (And she does.)

So, I broke out the three ring binder and the words flowed from my pen with no effort. Thinking my problem fixed, I fired up the laptop and went back to work on that troubling scene and did it flow as well?

My scene stinks even more than this!

Nope.

It still just lay there like a dead Redshirt.

I just could not get into the flow of it.

And flow, or “engagement” (the feeling of being lost in a task) isn’t just important for writing if you want to “flourish“.

Lynda Barry says that the “groove” will eventually leave you and the only way to get it back is to “fake dance”.  Meaning, you have to go through the motions and keep at it until you get back into it.  But I just couldn’t get into it. No matter how hard I tried it just wasn’t happening.  I just wanted it to be over with and be done with it. I wanted the script rewritten into novel form so I could move on.

And that was my problem.  I was focusing on the goal of being done and not the goal of writing the best scene possible.  In my mind, the story was done, I’d rewritten the script at least five times.  The story was finished.  I should be able to just bang out an e-book version.

Listening to the audio version... Again. Boy, do I need it.

Wrong.

In our society we tend to focus on the goal exclusivley.  We don’t care about the process, just the end results.  And that’s totally backwards.

We talk about page counts, churning out product and how fast we can get it done instead of talking about paying attention to craft and focusing on doing our best at that very moment.

I’m going to stop focusing on deadlines and page counts and start focusing on the moment in my story I’m working on.

One word at a time.

“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.”  —    Thomas M. Sterner

No, I’m not saying you should take as long as you please and not worry about getting things done on time.  Lord knows I want to be more productive! But usually when we rush we tend to waste more time because our thoughts are scattershot and we fail to get into that “flow” that allows us to focus.  I don’t know about you but whenever I’m in that “groove” I tend to write much faster and better.

( Thomas M. Sterner talks about going slow to go faster in his book The Practicing Mind and gives some other great examples how to put “mindfulness” into daily practice. )

So, instead of rushing and beating myself up over not being finished yet, I’m going to reread the scene I’m working on, outline the beats in that scene (even though I already did this when I wrote it before as a script) and then write down each of those beats by hand. And only after all of that will I go ahead and type it up.

But not with a FRIGGIN’ typewriter!

I know my book won’t be perfect but at least I’ll know I gave it all of my focus and effort.

Just like this blog that took three weeks to post.

Because making a cannon that shoots diamonds out of bamboo takes time.

"Here's your @#%$ deadline!"

"Can half a man live?"

So much for posting twice a week.  Hell, I’m having a hard time even getting one blog in a week.  Sigh.

Unfortunately there aren’t two of me to take care of everything I’d like to do…

"There, there... Not everyone can be as productive as Stephen King."

Then again, according to this article I don’t need a transporter mishap and an evil clone but actually need to do less.

It seems that multitasking can not only hurt learning and performance but also memory.

And the last thing I need is more distractions killing the few brain cells I have left. Especially considering how many I burnt through in college…

And high school…

Oh, and that decade right after college, before I got married…

Look, I need to hang onto whatever grey matter I’ve got left, so I’ve decided to dedicate most of my focus to just one project.

I need to be focused! Driven! I’ve got to be married to my project like Kirk is married to the Enterprise!

[Start at the 1:09 and go to the 2:15 for one of the great Kirk speeches of all time.]

OK, maybe not THAT married to my writing.

Most writers, including myself, seem to go through a certain love-hate relationship with their projects. Sort of like Kirk’s feeling for his ship… But without the dramatic pauses.

When the idea is in the planning phase, you love it, can’t wait to write it and know it will be the best thing you’ve ever written! But somewhere along the way they bog down, lose focus and start to think about that “other” idea. The one that for sure will be easier to write, will flow onto the paper and be the great idea.

So I thought, “Why not work on two projects and not get burnt out on either?”

First thing in the morning I’d work on converting a script I’d written into a novella and in the afternoon work on the science fantasy epic when I was somewhere I couldn’t plug-in.   I thought it would be great way to stay fresh and change gears.

But I may have just been stripping my gears instead.

"Dont worry, Doctor, my Vulcan mind can play chess, formulate a plan to save the Captain and think of witty comebacks all at the same time."

I’m sure there are people who can juggle various projects and not miss a beat…

But that’s not me.

So, I’m going to put the science fantasy epic on hold for the next month while I finish converting my script, “Confederacy of the Damned” into a book. Not that changing formats doesn’t present several challenges but it still should go fairly quickly.

Then again I thought blogging twice a week would be manageable and you’ve seen how that’s gone.

At least I’m not taking as long as George R.R. Martin is taking with his “Song of Ice and Fire” series! (Nor am I anywhere near as talented as him…)

Rigel VII... But could easily pass for Westeros.

I love his books (talk about epic fantasy!) and I started reading the series when “Game of Thrones” came out… In 1996! And he’s still not finished!  It’s been six years since the last one came out! Talk about being distracted… It’s gotten so bad even one of those crazy Asian animated news services has commented on it!

But then last nights premiere of “Game of Thrones” on HBO was awesome!  Tuned in expecting to hate it or just be mildly disappointed but instead found myself getting sucked in from the opening images.   If they can keep the pacing and budget of the pilot going for the rest of the series I think they’ll have “I, Claudius” meets “Lord of the Rings“!!!

"Did someone say, I, Claudius?"

So, I guess being “distracted” is working for George R.R. Martin…  How bout you? Can you effectively multitask? If so, how the hell do you do it? If not, how do you stay focused on that one idea?

And speaking of multitasking and multi-talented, looks like Shatner has a new album coming out!  Sweet!

Announcing The Song Line Up For Bill Shatner’s Upcoming Album “Searching For Major Tom”!!! 

"Only a fool would stand in the way of progress."

I’m old school.

Hell, I’m just plain old.

Old enough to remember when there wasn’t any of this “TOS: The Original Series” nonsense or any “TNG” with jumpsuits and Earl Grey tea.  And there sure as hell wasn’t a moody, “Emo Spock” making out with Uhuru!

Basically, I’m old enough to remember when there was one and only one Star Trek which means I’m old enough to have learned how to type on actual typewriter.

AND IT SUCKED!

The things jammed all the time, the ribbons ran out of ink and if you messed up you either had to rip the sheet out and start all over or, more likely, break out the ‘Wite Out’! Ugh.

I remember when my dad brought home our very first PC! A giant plastic box with a keyboard you hooked up to a monster size monitor and it was AMAZING!

(No, sadly, it wasn’t a Commodore Vic)

You could type like a total spaz on this new thing called a “PC”,  make a million typos, then just hit BACKSPACE and voila! Your mistake was gone. No more having to rewrite the whole thing or use splotchy correction fluid.  I may have even quietly wept when I discovered it had spell check.

"This show is about the future! Why am I sitting behind this relic?" (Yes, this is from a Star Trek episode!)

To put it bluntly, I’d sooner give myself a prostate exam with a spatula before I’d go back to using a typewriter.

But according to THIS article in the NY Times it looks like there are folks out there who are much more agile with a spatuala and think typewriters are some kind of zen-writing machines…

Are they are actually trying to make the argument that typewriters some how make you a better writer? Or are maybe they’re trapped in some kind of self imposed time warp from the looks of this quote:

“It’s kind of like saying, ‘In your face, Microsoft!’ ”

Microsoft?

Dude? Seriously. Microsoft hasn’t been the big, bad evil corporation to hate on since– Oh, wait… Google doesn’t work on your cherry Smith Corona, does it? Which is obviously a good thing, since it seems you can never turn off the evil Google browser, or your cell phone for that matter…

“If I’m on a computer, there’s no way I can concentrate on just writing, said Jon Roth, 23, a journalist who is writing a book on typewriters. “I’ll be checking my e-mail, my Twitter.”

"Twitter no leave me alone!"

Jon? Buddy? You may want to take a break from writing that book on typewriters and look into your possible Attention Deficit Disorder.   Google ADD and– Oh, wait…

But my favorite quote was this one:

“You type so much quicker than you can think on a computer,” Ms. Kowalski said. “On a typewriter, you have to think.”

Really? Type faster than you can think?

Either this woman’s mind is firing like a sloth on ludes or she’s melting keyboards with her blazing fast mad typing skills.

(And speaking of keyboards, studies seem to substantiate that the physical act of writing seems to boost learning and goal achievement better than typing… Even on a typewriter!)

When I’m writing the last thing I want to do is think because that’s when the inner critic shows up. That little voice in your head that tells you how bad your writing is, that it’s horrible, that you’ll never kiss that beautiful female yeoman no matter– Er… Uh…

"Is that a 'Marge Simpson' hairdo...?"

I want it to be writing at Warp Factor 10 so I can banish that nagging little voice just like Kirk banished Kahn to Ceti Alpah V. (Two Trek references in one sentence = Winning.)

The best way to write is to let the image pull you. You should be water-skiing behind it, not dragging it like a barge. Writing should take you for a ride.”  — Lynda Barry

I don’t know about you but that sounds friggin’ awesome to me!

(Certainly better than lugging around a 60lb typewriter and a lifetime supply of Wite-Out!)

As luck would have it Lynda Barry was teaching her week long intensive workshop, “Writing the Unthinkable” just down the road from me! And I even got a discount for being a local. How could I say no?

"Amazing Book!"

Even though I was a bit skeptical I went in with an open mind and three ring binder. By the end of the week I was totally recharged, looking at writing differently and had decided to finally jump into writing the science fantasy epic I’d been planning in my head for almost two decades. But I wasn’t sure where to start with my epic. I’d tried outlinging. In fact I had several beat sheets and boards for it but it still seemed thin.

So I asked Lynda about outlining and explained “Saved the Cat” to her. She said it sounded like a great idea but I shouldn’t do any of that until I had written my first draft by hand. Because, outlining is like a map, and as she said, “How can you give directions to a place you haven’t been to yet?”

“Lady,” I said to her, “You just blew my mind.”

The next day I sat down and started writing. And kept writing until I had two three ring binders full. I’m rewriting the story right now, by hand, by just copying what I wrote, by hand and letting the story change or go where it needs to.

Hmmmm… Maybe I am as insane as the typewriter zealots.

But at least pen and paper are quiet. I swear if I were on an Amtrak train and someone started clacking away on a typewriter next to me they’d get a “Kirk Drop Kick” so fast they’d–

"The third act is all wrong. What if I..."

Yeah, on second thought… Well, that’s my process at the moment. What’s yours? What keeps you in motion and what do you do when you lose the groove? I want to hear about all the tricks and ideas you use to keep going.

And pens! What kind of pens do people recommend? I like my Pilot Precise Grip but willing to look boldly to new frontiers.

"The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."

So, I start a blog and then don’t post anything for almost two weeks.  But I have a reason, no, really! I was on vacation. RR.  You know… Shore Leave?*

"Fascinating."

I was with my family down in Florida and didn’t have time to post anything.

Honest.

No, really…

Yeah, I know, “Lame excuse, J.J.”

Sure, I could have found a half hour here or there and banged out a quick post. But I didn’t. Instead, I kept going back and forth about what to write, wanting it to be perfect, would it be good enough…  And kept putting it off.

And it shouldn’t be that way!

This blog should be fun to write and fun to read.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not about to just post anything that comes into my mind or turn this into an online diary.  I’ll work to make my blogs useful and entertaining but it shouldn’t become a chore.  Like I said, it should be fun!

I started writing because I enjoyed it.  I couldn’t write fast enough to get the ideas onto paper. And that’s what I’m trying to get back to. It’s the reason I started writing my epic science fantasy novel with pen and paper.  No laptop or typewriter.

Yes, you read that right. I’m using pen and paper to write a huge ass story that will most likely cover at least four books.

No, I’m not some kind of insane follower of Landru wanting to go back to simpler times…

"Damn. We beamed down onto the set of 'Little House on the Prairie' again."

There’s a method to my madness.  I wrote the entire first draft, without an outline, in less than six months  from what I learned from Lynda Barry in her workshop.  No, it’s not perfect or even worth showing anyone.  But it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to liberate me and help turn off my inner critic. And it worked!  Having the most fun writing I can remember and being incredibly productive at the same time.  (I’ll talk more about it in a future post.)

Right now I’m just reminding myself to have fun with this blog and promising myself I’ll post something at least twice a week.

Stuff like this…

(via Sex in a Submarine)

I think it quite telling that they use Next Generation to go with the disco music.  Those jumpsuits were always a million times more cheesy then anything TOS did.  (Yes, I once again slammed Next Generation.)

*Speaking of Shore Leave…

Take a look at this pic from the MegaCon:

(via GammaSquad)

The guy on the right went as the G.I. Joe character Shipwreck?!

Either:

A) He hasn’t a clue about “The Venture Brothers” (the greatest show on television right now)  and the character Shore Leave and I feel sorry for him.  Or…

B) He knows all about Shore Leave and is my new hero and I want to buy him and his parrot a beer!

"…bare-handed against the Gorn, I have no chance."

“A blog? Really…? Why?”

Well, like Kirk says in episode…

Ah, hell, I could give all sorts of reasons but to be honest writing is a lonely pursuit and I’m a very social person. So maybe I can merge the two here, like making a cannon out of bamboo ala “Arena” and use it to help defeat my inner Gorn– Er, uh, I mean frustrations with my writing.

Also, I got tired of answering all the e-mails about my avatar.

It’s photo shopped, people! For the last time, I do not have:

  • A giant styrofoam wall in my basement
  • A torn Federation uniform
  • An actual lirpa.

I’m not even that huge a Star Trek geek… At least compared to some people I know.

Then again, the fact that so many people, including close friends and family, thought the photo was real tells me I may need to explain myself a little better. So maybe this blog will help clear up some misconceptions and offer useful information as well.

Not that I have a friggin’ clue how that’s going to work.  But that didn’t stop me from starting the SAVE THE CAT Forum and it’s still up and running.  (Crosses fingers and tries to remember the last time he backed it up.)

But when you get down to it the main reason I’m starting this blog is so I can post stuff like this…

(via Topless Robot)

Notice he’s wearing a “Next Generation” uniform.  Yeah, I went there. And what is with the “bag” hanging from his belt?

So? What else do you want to see here?  Speak now while this sucker is still in the dry dock being built!