Impatience of the Momentary

I don’t like work. I think it’s safe to say that most people feel the same way. Generally it’s not the work itself that I oppose, but rather the time spent on it. I’m impatient, especially when I picture the intent or idea so clearly in my mind. I don’t want to wait, and I don’t want to risk having it come out differently than I’ve imagined.

The thing is, I know my first efforts are weak. I understand that any attempt to shortcut or rush a project—whatever that may be—degrades the end results, and quite probably makes the outlay of the time I did put into it rather pointless.

Part of the problem is a lack of appreciation for the process itself. In gaming terms, leveling up a character in a roleplaying game is often considered grinding—as if efforts to strengthen the character is work, boring work, and it’s only done to get to the end levels. This is in a game, something that should be fun throughout.

Finding enjoyment in the activity makes a significant difference. Back in art school, my mindset evolved from trying to create a finished piece to simply doing—painting (or drawing, etc.) for the sake of painting. It was not a mindless activity, but the goal shifted from an end-thing to a momentary experience.

I’ve found it harder to fall into this mindset when it comes to writing, though every once in a while, when words just seem to flow, I edge nearer to it. It’s quite possible that my writing habits keep me from this sense of process—I edit while I write, trying to hone words and sentences as I write them. I feel the effort, the work, and while it’s not quite a slog it isn’t really a game, either.

Of course, it also depends on what I’m writing—blog posts (like this one here) are more work than play; stories that I can’t get out of my head come much closer to an enjoyable process.

But when I struggle more than flow, I still find ways to appreciate it—or at least the gains. I anticipate the end results, and see them after the fact. Repeat this often enough and I begin to train my mind, like a Pavlovian experiment, to equate this kind of work with finished pieces (and possibly even lubricate future efforts). Along the way, I’m more aware of what I’m doing (sometimes agonizingly so), and that awareness allows me to see the flaws more clearly. This awareness also sticks in my mind, helping me see patterns I fall into, and traps I can attempt to avoid.

Ultimately, though, I need to learn how to relish these moments, to find enjoyment in all acts of writing, and bring out the game of each effort. I’m confident the secret lies in the process. I should explore other ways of working on this craft, or other environments, maybe give myself different challenges, or push my writing style in various directions. Shaking it up is good. What it boils down to is that I—and you—should enjoy what we choose to do, or choose to do something else.

Reporting, Interviews, and San Diego Comic-Con

Dr. Alexander Bustos is a reporter on topics such as comic books, movies, video games, and anything else he likes. He hopes to make a living off it someday and loves looking at fan cultures from a sociological perspective. Surrounded by people dressed as heroes, villains, etc. he finds himself taking on the Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen role and is perfectly happy with that comparison. He currently writes for, Team Valkyrie, Ogeeku, and co-hosts a podcast called Associated Geekery.

This past San Diego Comic-Con, 2013, was my first year there as press instead of guest. The difference in experience is striking; for one thing, you get a lot of invites for panels that are a whole lot of nothing since most are really just a reminder instead of an actual invitation. I find the best way to compare them is as if a friend shouted for you to join them at a party, while they are driving past you on the road, as you are walking in the other direction. Most panels at SDCC are just first come first serve so unless you are a big name for press or are friends with someone involved, you probably just have to get in line like everyone else.

The real deal though were the invites to interviews, those are more organized and are probably going to occur. I say probably because they are never on time due to the chaos of the convention plus the fact that the people you are interviewing have a million and one things to do. I can relate to that last part especially. I had an interview change from 10:45am to being roughly 10 minutes before my next appointment at 2:30pm. This all changed in the span of minutes, that’s one thing that you kind of have to plan ahead for, interviews change so much that I end up planning maybe three a day and those become super hectic since they are able to be dropped at a moment’s noticed or changed to an earlier or later time. You can also have people added (rare) or dropped (common) from group interviews. I know the interviewed have little to no say in any of that, but it sure means I’m staying close to where I need to be for an interview by hours and not minutes.

This brings me to another point, multiple-people-at-the-same time style interviews are hectic since I have to come up with questions that can be answered by the group and not just an individual. I try not to exclude people from my questions but sometimes one person will dominate the conversation when you ask a question that is near and dear to their heart. I try to make sure everyone is a part of the interview since I don’t want it to look like one or more people are neglected.

I’m also always trying to come up with interview questions that are related to the subject at hand but not too terribly generic. When we ask those generic questions, we find them just as boring too, but they are the nature of the beast since it is likely stuff people want answers to and they may not go to every other site to find them. So I apologize in advance when I ask you to try and give us some sort of sneak peek that isn’t just “Well read/see it to find out!” but it is stuff people are always looking for first so I’ll probably ask it. Half the questions I come up with are also ones I get from popular request so again, they will probably sound repetitive.

Trying to make the interview process not just the same 10 questions asked over and over again and not to step on the toes of your fellow reporters isn’t the easiest thing. Not that I know what fellow reporters are saying but I sure don’t want the exact same answer they got. My questions try to be a bit more personal in a safe manner; the people who try to twist your words about what your favorite giant robot in fiction is aren’t really a threat to anyone but their own dignity. I hope my questions can be half informative to the reason we’re even meeting and get some fun ideas you don’t mind the world knowing, like thoughts on dinosaurs and movies.

Another thing, these interviews we get, most of these are ones we chose. I get an email giving me a list of people available to interview and what for and what times, when I pick what few I can handle per day, it’s because I want to be there. I’m interviewing you because I’m interested in you and/or your work. Sometimes I want to toss out any questions about what we should talk about and talk about a past or other current work, but that’s incredibly rude so I’ll just throw in a question or two to discuss those other works. If you want to continue talking about that other topic as well, it’s great to mention that you hope there’s more on that topic. Even if I don’t have any more questions written down or planned, I probably have some stashed in the fanboy part of my brain. I’ve only interviewed people I’ve respected and enjoyed their works so when I’m showing up, I am ready to just have a casual chat. I know this doesn’t make for good interviews so I try to make the questions interesting for the readers and more importantly, you. If I’m not keeping you interested then I don’t think I’ll get any decent answers out of you either and I don’t want to waste your time.

My main point about doing interviews at San Diego Comic-Con, or any convention, is that I am trying to get interesting answers out of you; I’m not trying to do any sort of gotcha journalism. I want to be a highlight if I can in the day since it’s an honor to get to interview you and I understand being exhausted from interviews. So if you see me at a convention and I’m interviewing you at some point, I’ll probably try to say hi so that when we start the interview it is comfortable and at least a little fun for you.

Being a Ship With No Flag: How to Ignore the Rules (A Micro-Musing)

Ennis Drake’s short fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print, including: “Love: The Breath of Eagleray”, at Underland Press (publisher of Jeff VanderMeer’s “Finch”, John Shirley’s “In Extremis”, Brian Evenson’s “Last Days”, among others); “The Dark That Keeps Her”, published in Twisted Legends, an anthology from Pill Hill Press (honorably mentioned in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2); and “The Fishing of Dahlia”, published in the Bram Stoker-nominated and Black Quill Award winning +Horror Library+ Volume 4. “The Fishing of Dahlia” also received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3. Forthcoming from Word Horde (summer 2013), “The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker”, will appear in the anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross Lockhart. His debut novel, “Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage”, was released May 31st, 2012, from Omnium Gatherum Media, and was a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award. Most recently, his collected novelettes, “The Day and the Hour” and “Drone”, were released by Omnium Gatherum Media (Feb. 2013).

Write what you know. Write what you love. Write every day. Catch an adverb, kill it. Write longhand. Write as fast as you can. Edit line by line, page by page. Let it cool. Write it while it’s fresh and hot and screaming. The Oxford Comma. Strike unnecessary punctuation. Network. You must have a “Platform”. Create a Facebook, and a Twitter, and a blog, and an author website. No, none of us knows why we create massive networks of other writers and market to them (because all readers are writers?), but it’s what we do, so you should, too. Go to conventions. Wear adverts in your hat. Do everything I tell you. I’m a writer, after all. I know THE SECRET. Thousands upon thousands of my books are in circulation, I’ve been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, so, naturally, whatever I say must be true, and it must be true for me, and you, and you, and yes, you, too.


The only truth is there are no hard truths.

I do not write what I know (unless you count crazy). I do not write what I love (I detest both my fiction and my subject-matter). I do not write every day (and don’t plan to). I don’t count words (and I sure as shit don’t waste time posting word counts to, well, anywhere). I happen to use a great many adverbs. Sometimes I over-punctuate. Sometimes I strip it out. Sometimes I don’t (the key, if there is a key, is consistency—your editor will have the say later, anyway). I do have a Facebook. I shit around on it with a handful of friends in the industry and occasionally post about my writing projects. I have a Twitter. I almost never use it. I don’t have a blog (chances are? I hate your blog), and I don’t have an author website (and unless a publisher requires me to have one in-future, foots the bill, and maintains it, I probably never will). I take every bit of advice I’m given, consider it, keep what I like, and ignore the rest. And yes, I’m aware I’ve stolen that bit (I can’t be bothered to remember exactly who from, but there you go)…so far as writing advice goes, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.

So what are we really talking about, then, I sense you asking (if you’ve not folded interest and decamped already)? Individuality. Individuality will make or break you. You can maintain it, or you cannot. If you cannot, you will surely disappear. You will learn your own unique Voice, you will learn what works for you, or you will not. You will (to paraphrase Bruner) learn to discover “the internalization of your personal novel. . .itself the search for identity”. It was once written of Gertrude Stein: “She is a ship that flies no flag and she is outside the law of art, but she descends on every port and a leaves a memory of her visits.” This is the advice I give to you. Be like Stein. Fly no flag and live outside the law of art, because there are no laws of art. True art pushes, bends, breaks rules.

So, these are the rules:




Good luck.

It’s All On You

Tracy Barnett is a new writer who loves fantasy of all types, especially the kinds that mash up genres. He has the temerity to call himself an author and it working on funding his first novel, Sveidsdottir. A Norse fantasy mashed up with giant stompy dwarven automatons and the skeletons of dead giants. Oh, and inclusive as all get out. Tracy got his start writing tabletop RPGs, and has published two of his own. Tracy thinks that typing in the third person about himself is weird as fuck.

You see that bio up there? I had no idea what to write for it. I mean, I’m new at this. Fresh-from-the-garden, still have that ‘New Writer’ smell on me new. As those clumsy words above state, I’ve written tabletop RPGs and am now working on my first novel. The difference between how you write those two things is night and day. I’m not sure how many readers here have done RPG work, but I think it’s interesting to compare the two. At the least, you’ll get my take on the novel writing process. Let’s do this thing.

When you write an RPG, you’re essentially building someone a playground. You’ve got some kind of premise (Ninja Pony Assassins!) and that’s the open plot upon which your playground equipment will go. You’ve got your game mechanics (we need to incentivize the interpersonal relationships between the Pony Assassins and their targets, oh and we want to use target numbers and a shit-ton of d6s) and that’s like the paths that lead from one fun thing to another. And you’ve got plot points, world details, and maybe an adventure or two (the Ninja Pony Assassins must defeat their nemesis, the Dark Lord Horsington to save the world!!) which are like the actual equipment that people play on.

Still with me?

That’s the kind of writing I’m used to doing. Whether I’m making a new game of my own, or preparing for a session on a Friday night, I generally build a playground and then ask other people to come and climb all over it. They do what I call The Hard Work. They make characters, they interact with the world, and they move the story forward. I have the luxury of responding to all of that. Everything I do once I build the playground is in response to what the people playing on it do.

Novels are different. So very, very different. With a novel, I still have to do all of the above things (minus the mechanics part because, really, are you going to ask your reader to bring dice with them while they read? … hmm, Choose your own adventu- Ugh. Back to my point). So, I do all of those things: I clear a space, I put down the equipment and then I am the one that has to go playing on it. Yes, I know that people say their characters take on lives of their own and maybe Miss Hester the Protagonist will decide that she’d much rather play on the slide than use the jungle gym. But it’s still me doing all of The Hard Work that I usually get to divide between the brains of the 4-8 people I have at my game table.

That difference was daunting at first. And then I remembered something super-important: this is my goddamn playground. I built it, and I know which parts are the best. I know that Hester really does want the play on the jungle gym (eventually) and I know that Johnny Plot-Point will be perfect over by the monkey bars. AND, if I don’t see a place for Bernice the Badass Villain, I don’t despair and I don’t change Bernice. I change the fucking playground.

There’s a freedom in novel writing that, if you’re not careful, can paralyze. Instead of having to craft things to fit the gamers at your table like in an RPG, you can to change things to suit your vision. You are the god of your world, the god of your story. Don’t let that paralyze you. Own it. Slip into the skin of your characters and dance around for a bit. Hop on the merry-go-round and then take to the balance beams. It’s your world and the world is your playground.

Just, whatever you do, don’t install a climbing rope. No one fucking likes those things.