Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Obesity Sensitivity

Ever wonder what a surgical technologist does? Well this isn't quite it, but it is part of a training video I made for work. My hospital is now a 'bariatric center of excellence', and for that we're required to have obesity sensitivity training. Management got the idea for a video, some nurses volunteered, I got recruited (I'm also the host/narrator of the rest of the video), and we finally got it done. Here's the introduction they allowed me complete creative independance to make.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mood and Strategy

How can I say this without sounding melodramatic? Hmmm.... well let me start out blandly, and build up to melodrama.

These last few months, I've stepped up my efforts to break into print.

The proccess happened something like this: reputable agents were requesting partial manuscripts on almost a regular basis, I'd send them out, and the rejection letter would always find its way to my mailbox. I had suspected it for a long time, but I finally had to admit it - my writing was weak. I'm sure that what was happening was that the storys' concepts from my query letters were interesting them, but once they received my actual writing they were turned off. One of the industry's top agents even said as much; "While you have a fertile imagination and a knack for creating rich worlds, ultimately, the narrative wasn't engaging enough". You'd think that after eight novels and a slew of short stories, the skill would just naturally develop, but it doesn't always work that way. Like with baseball or piano playing or anything else, you can only progress so far without expert guidance - unless of course you're a virtuoso, which I'm not. I could turn out to be a creative genius, but it ain't worth squat if I don't have the skills to get it on paper.

So I decided to learn. Within the last six weeks or so, I bought books on writing, read them over more than once, highlighting the things I'd been unwittingly doing wrong. I started getting into online forums where writers critique each other's works, and learning from the things they were doing wrong. I even posted some of my own work - which felt like showing the kids on the playground my underwear - but I learned even more. I sort of joined local writer's group, I signed up for a writing class in the fall, and I'm continuing to read, and critique, and read other's critiques, and actively, ACTIVELY, learn. I do almost nothing anymore that isn't writing related. And when I am doing other things (like going to my real job) writing is always on my mind.

Most recently, I took a drastic step that is both risky and sad.

I volutarily gave up my prime day-shift position in surgery for the afternoon shift. In essence, this means that I wont see much of my family, but in a way, I've done it to 'get away' from them. This sounds bad, but those of you who know me know that I'm all about family. I've got a fun-loving wife who's fiercely loyal and good and fiercely easy to be married to (and beyond hot), and my four kids are well-behaved, with silly, sometimes zany, sometimes-totally-surreal, character-injected personalities. I like being around them and they seem to like being around me. The purpose behind doing this was to give myself absolute freedom during the day to focus on my writing-related endeavors to the exclusion of just about everything else. It's been a week, and I've gotta say, this just may be the magic we needed. I've been working with 'laser-like intensity' because, in a way, I'm holding my own family for ransom. The only way I'll get to see them again is to force this dream to come true.

And here it is: Cindy and I will be able to quit our jobs and stay home, together, everyday, just me and my best friend in the world. Now I don't need J.K. Rawling-success, or even one percent of her money. What we earn now will be just fine - a little more would be nice. I'll work on my stories and she can be the stay-at-home-mom she's always wanted to be, keeping on top of all the domestic things that right now fill her with so much guilt when neglected. We're gonna exercise together in the mornings, drink coffee together, maybe drive into town for lunch a couple days a week. When the kids come home from school we'll finally be able to focus on them, instead of the afore-mentioned 'domestic-things' we've been trying to cram into every evening of our lives so far. And when they're off school - the whole family's on vacation. Sound good?

Quick aside: I've heard it said many times that desiring a writer's lifestyle is not a sufficient reason to become a writer. Well, duh. Just take it as a given that I LOVE to write. I love the way it feels to flex that creative muscle and weave plots and paint characters and plan surprises and breathe life into things that were merely a white blank a moment before and to become something more exciting than what I am for a little while and then to give it all a brutal twist in the end..... ahhhhhhh.

So, as it stands now, the alternative to success is working all week long without seeing one another, and without having our evening meals as a family, which has always been precious to me. But we firmly believe that dreams require sacrifice. There's also the kind of dream where amazing good fortune unexpectedly drops out of the clear blue sky, but smart people plan, they invest in their dreams. And that's what we're doing. I'm calling it in fact, a 'sacrificial investment in our dreams'.

Perhaps my books are not interesting enough, or written well enough to make that dream come true right now. That's fine. I'll do whatever it takes to make them better - whatever it takes. I refuse to give up. I'll keep writing, and learning, and rewriting, and learning, and stepping up my commitment wherever I see an opportunity. My heart is set in stone and my eyes are firmly on the prize (I told you I'd get melodramatic). I'll lay siege to the publishing industry and camp within its borders, battering at its walls while strengthinging my towers and training my troops at the same time. If my catapult doesn't clear the wall, I'll build a bigger catapult. If the load crumbles harmlessly against the wall, I'll find a bigger and harder rock. If physical weapons continue to have no effect, I'll level the battlefield with my tenacity, my determination, my will. Time is on my side. It can't resist me forever.

My hundreds of rejection letters don't dissuede me. I've never had writer's block, and I've still got notebooks full of cool ideas. I've already proven that I can write a book - I've written eight. I've already proven that I can come up with interesting ideas for those books - agents keep asking for manuscripts. Now all I need to do is balance the last two numbers of the equation: write better... and persevere.

Thoughts on Potter

I'm baffled.

She's worth 1.5 billion after only seven books, and during the first twenty-four hours after its release, this last book sold like fifty thousand copies every seven minutes. I've read Harry Potter, and I think its good - but not that good. What's going on here? Perhaps magic is real and she's found a way to use it to snare readers.

Don't get me wrong, there are admirable qualities to her writing: great characters, interesting concept, strong plot, etc. But I hardly think its the greatest series of books in all recorded history. I personally prefer Artemis Fowl which is in the same genre, geared towards the same market, and has as many, if not more, literary strengths. Yet you don't see the sum of western civilization biting their nails in anticipation over the next book or movie, or even collecting Artemis Fowl action figures with their happy meals.

Am I jealous? Absolutely. But please don't think I'm whining about my own lack of success. I'm just curious about what it is that has an entire planet eagerly focused on one series of seven books. I realize that she has the promotional power of the entire industry backing her work, but that alone cannot create a successful story. So what does, any thoughts?

I ask because I could use a little of that juju myself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A distant future.

A utopian society.

The Age of Entertainment.

The ‘productives’ are the top three percent of mankind best and brightest. It is their honor and privilege to continue to work to support the ‘consumers’ who make up the rest of society. After an artificially enhanced primary education in one’s formative years, they move on to be trained in the ‘entertainment path’ of their choosing.

Many choose lives as role-players.

“It has been a decade since the flames of war were quenched by the might of the High-King Morgraine. Men live side-by-side with survivors of the dwarf and elven kingdoms, and the threats of giants and goblins seem but a distant memory. But now, in the darkest corners of the Talonshale, a new evil stirs. Rumors of fleeting glimpses of savage lizard men are whispered in taverns. Strange attacks are occurring, seemingly at random. Nothing is known of who they are or what they seek, and yet, from the oldest and bloodiest tales of ancient times, their name is re-discovered. They are the ‘Cobran’, and they exist for a single, violent purpose.”

Talonshale is a fully submersible gameworld in a fully tactile, biomatonized environment with revolving, campaign-based quests. Play as your favorite fantasy character*, roaming the breathtaking landscapes of Talonshale to destroy the mysterious object that is awakening the Cobrans. Explore side-quests, upgrade your weapons and armor, acquire treasure and magical items, and gain experience to progress in level. Play ‘lone-wolf’ or with a party of adventurers. Play noble, play heroic, play greedy, or dirty. Any way you play, the future of Talonshale depends on you.

*Some player races require temporary physical alteration. Participation in Talonshale does require neuropathode implantation. Average training camps last six to twelve months, depending on player class. While roleplaying worlds are considered perfectly safe, personal injury waivers are required of all participants. See all accompanying rules and regulations, especially with regards to interfering with willing suspension of disbelief.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A long long time ago....

ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......... snork! Huh? Whoa - must've nodded off there for a month or two.

In all liklihood, nobody checks this blog anymore, but Chilldaddy still has thoughts to share, so here he is. First off, I passed my surg. tech. recertification, so I remain gainfully employed. Trying to get the hospital to reimburse me the five hundred dollars I spent on the test is another matter entirely. Secondly, I'm still writing. In fact, the real writing is mainly what has kept me from the pointless blog writing.

I finished my eighth book , 'Brughs of Elfhame' about a month ago, and at the moment, I'm revising it, sending out querys, and planning my next story. I've had three agents ask for partial manuscripts so far, but like a fool, I sent it first to an agent that insists on three months of exclusivity. I've learned from my friends on WritersNet that it's uncommon and rude for an agent to ask for exclusivity on partials, but this is an outstanding agent, and one I'd want to consider representing me, so I'm letting it ride.

Here's what's next on the horizon of my writing career: re-learning to write. I've discovered that, while I have some basic skill, there are a lot of problems with my narrative style. Everything I've ever written needs to be carefully rewritten, and I don't want to start anything new until I'm armed with better technique. I intend to learn these skills by visiting the reclusive master on a seemingly-deserted, swamp-filled planet and cajoling him into sharing with me the ways of the Force. If that doesn't work, I'll stick with my original plan of reading several recommended books, joining a writer's group, and taking a writing class in the fall.
Meanwhilst, to answer your unspoken questions regarding the two book covers that appear on this post, I'm experimenting with vanity publishing. NO, I'M NOT GIVING UP! These amount to no more than fancy, bound copies that I could print out with my own computer. They're not available to the public, they do not have an ISBN number, and they do not qualify as 'being published' in even the remotest of ways, so there is no danger of having squandored the critical 'first publication' rights. They are simply a cheaper, easier, more-fun way of creating copies for family and friends to proof-read for me. Should you want a personal, permanant copy of your own, I can print them at a cost of twelve dollars including shipping, but they are most definately not for sale.