On Progress: 10/17/14

Let’s do this.

This week has been kind of up and down. On the positive side, I saw friends every night from Sunday to Wednesday. On the negative side, I saw friends every night from Sunday to Wednesday. Luckily it was a good mix of situations that tend to deplete my spoons and situations that restore them, so I came out of it roughly balanced, though starved for time to sit and write.

More important to my current good mood is that I finally hashed some stuff out with Sonya that needed to be hashed out. Not a fight or anything, just both of us talking through stuff the way I hear married couples are supposed to talk through stuff. Functional couples of any type, really, but, the point stands. I love her so very much and am so glad we are figuring out how to Adult together, and no, you don’t get to know what it was about; just that I feel so very much better having gotten through it.

The writing this week has been rough, I am afraid. Having social engagements every night for four nights straight really put a huge damper on my ability to find time to relax and write; sometimes inspiration strikes on my lunch breaks, but when inspiration has to strike on my lunch breaks, the word “strain” is an understatement. I’ve been writing a comic script, so “word count” is a bit hard to pin down, but I have not been getting as much done each day as I would like, and now here I am at the first of my two days a week off, wishing this could have gone better. My current thought process is similar to last week’s: I can either take my two days off, or if inspiration strikes, write on either of my two days off. I have options; and I know I will be back to the keyboard on Sunday.

Really, the thing that I have remembered this week is that I am lucky to have a life that supports writing at all. Many people I know suffer from too much overtime, from disruptive home lives, difficult commutes, and other things that can crush the life out of a pursuit like writing in one’s off-hours. I have a partner who makes sure I get into the writing room whenever I need to, who supports me when I send out submissions and comforts me when I get rejected, who understands that sometimes I need to drop what I’m doing and write something down, and who understands all the other things about the insane pursuit of making things up. I love her so very, very much, and I remember it every time I sit down to write. I mean, it’s hard not to; I see gifts from her on my desk every time I sit down to it.

Every time I sit down to it. That, above all things, is most important; that I just keep doing the work, regardless of how hard it is on any given day, regardless of what other things are knocking at my door. I get out to the computer, and I do. The. Work. I do not always necessarily feel I am good at the writing part; but I am good at making sure I try.

And I guess, really, that is what I want to be able to say at the end of my life. I want it written on my tombstone: I never stopped trying.

OK, it is time for me to do the Day Job thing. I leave you with a recommendation: Pick up Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory. It’s a graphic novel series about an alternate America where poultry is illegal due to an avian flu epidemic, in which a cop named Tony Chu solves crimes using his power to learn the history and memories of anything he eats. That is the least weird thing I can possibly type about this series, and it is glorious and revolting and funny and sad and everything I wanted it to be. Please, go read it. Give them money. Give them praise. You will regret none of these decisions.

On that possibly dangerous note, I leave you. Have a good weekend, everybody!

 

On Progress, Not Technically 10/10/14

Saturday is like Friday, after Friday’s had time to change and order his first cocktail.

So, clearly I am not quite back on the blogging bandwagon. It has been a weird week, to cap off a weird series of months. After a week of kind-of-writing, of difficulty focusing at work, of some extreme emotional reactions, and of just generally feeling like someone turned down the volume on the entire world, I’ve been forced to admit that my recovery from Weddinggeddon is not yet total. This is one of those places where I should be kinder to myself than I am being — weddings are stressful, travel is stressful, vacations screw up your rhythm, and it’s not like the consequences of difficulty focusing exactly fill you with marzipan and kittens even if you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder. But I just plain expect more of myself than that; I should have made more progress with my writing than I have, should have gotten back on the exercise train full-time, should be back up to speed at work. I’m full of “should,” and falling short of it hurts me.

Some time Thursday, I finally saw the light. Unfortunately, this was not in time to prevent a bit of a screw-up at work, which I at least took ownership of, but I did see the light. It was triggered by the realization that this weekend is the first weekend since somewhere near the end of August that we have not either been preparing for the wedding, or been expected to be somewhere in specific. We have a friend’s birthday dinner tomorrow night (Sunday, for those playing at home), and that is our only plan that is being enacted at a pace other than one we dictate to ourselves. So, it’s time to try to fix the burnout. Time to sleep in as late as we want, to only cook as complicated a dinner as we want, to clean the house up at the speed we choose and to do whatever we feel like should it harm no-one. Time to hoard spoons in a manner most miserly and climb back out of this pit of sleep debt and into the light. (I use that metaphor a lot. I’ll need to watch out for it.) I look forward to starting the next week feeling a little bit fresher.

The good news is, I have not been entirely idle in the writing department. Though work on Eyes of Stone has stalled in reaction to my spoon shortage, I have been working on the synopsis for the comic book series I’d tinkered with, and it is currently with an indie publisher for consideration. They have told me they expect to get back to me next week, and I am nervous and elated in equal measure. Even if I am rejected, and let’s face it, in this world that is the likelier option, it’s nice to know I have tried to do something new and have gotten a response of some kind. That said, I hope they accept it. I would love an opportunity to write comics.

In other good writing news, an anthology I am proud to be a part of is on Kickstarter! Not Our Kind is an anthology of speculative fiction stories about people who don’t belong — who think differently than those around them, who question the status quo. Details about the book are available on the Kickstarter page, but bottom line is, if you want to contribute, I and all the other writers involved would greatly appreciate it. You can back for any amount you want, but $10 gets you an eBook copy of the anthology, and $25 gets you a paperback; larger amounts can also get you writing critiques from the pros, special gifts from Alliteration Ink, and even home-baked cookies if you go far enough. The majority of the money goes to paying the authors SFWA professional rates, which is a big deal for us, and should stand as testament to how awesome Alliteration Ink is and how much they deserve your money bits. Fair warning: This is important enough I will be posting reminders about the Kickstarter at milestone times — when we hit 50%, when we’re halfway through the Kickstarter, etc. I’ll avoid spamming, but this isn’t the end of the discussion, not for something that depends so much on word of mouth.

On a personal note, I want to take a second to talk about the story I had accepted for this anthology. “Hero Town” is probably the fiction work I am most proud of to this day; to paraphrase editor and fellow writer Jennifer Brozek, “Hero Town” is me being the best me I can be — me stretching beyond my previous ruts and limitations and really improving as a writer. It’s one of the stories that really clicked with me the minute I had the idea, that took some suffering to produce but made itself completely worth it in the end. I’m proud to be published alongside the other authors in this anthology, especially Jennifer, who was one of the first editors to accept my work for publication; and I’m proud that the piece I am getting paid my first pro rate for is “Hero Town.” I really hope you all like it.

Well, we are fast approaching a thousand words here, so I’m going to leave off and go back to an unwinding Saturday. I know I promise recommendations, and so to you all I recommend an oldie and an obvious one: Batman: the Killing Joke. It’s Alan Moore at his peak, writing the Joker in a way that has since become the axis the character spins on. If you haven’t read it yet, there is a gap in your comics experience. Give it a whirl.

Have a good weekend, everybody! I know I will.

On Progress, 10/3/14

God I’ve been terrible.

Friends and loves, this past month has been crazy. Two weddings where there should be three, an illness that would not quit, and so, so little sleep. My wife came down with bronchitis a week or so after the wedding, dodging us being sick on our honeymoon but causing us to miss our friends’ wedding (lest we infect the immunosuppressed groom). We then spent a week suffering, and are still not quite all the way well, but are at least as well as we are getting for the foreseeable future, chest colds being what they are. On top of that there have been big projects coming up at work, both at the Day Job and in my writing in a lesser degree, and the issue of all those social plans we deflected until “after the wedding” now coming due. But, we’re finally out of it; the Weddinggeddon has ended, and we have triumphed. Our weekends are our own once more, to do with as we please; and that is one of the best wedding gifts I could ask for.

All this is to say that I should be back to my regular updates again, now that my life is not being used to define the very concept of hectic; and that I missed writing these words once a week. It was a nice piece of ritual to close my work week out and bring me into the weekend, and I suspect that not doing it is part of why I’ve felt a bit off-center for the last little while. I’ve had a lot of my rituals interrupted by Weddinggeddon and illness, and getting back into them has really helped. Next week I might even get back to exercise.

As far as writing, well, writing never really stopped. I was off the wagon for the week of my honeymoon, focused instead of spending time with my love (and what a time it was!); but beginning the Sunday before I went back into the real world, I sat down and I started writing. Work on Eyes of Stone has progressed, though I stopped when I got ill and worked on other projects because my febrile brain just could not handle the complexities of editing and needed something looser if I was to keep limber. Editing of the comic-book scripts I’ve been poking at has continued apace. And perhaps most importantly: I am going out on a limb and pitching a comic-book series!

There’s a small-press comic publisher open for submissions, and they have done some things in the past that are similar enough to my ideas that I feel like it might actually be something they’d be interested in. This past week, I have devoted my writing time to getting my synopsis polished up and ready for them; this weekend, one of my beta-readers is looking at it, and hopefully next week I can get it out the door and begin this new and exciting adventure. Said adventure has a good chance of ending with rejection, as so many creative endeavors do, but I can’t fly if I never jump.

I’ve got some more good news waiting in the wings, but I want to be sure all the legal stuff is squared away before I talk about any of it. But suffice to say it is a good time to be a Tyler, what with the amazing wife and the great friends and the creative success, however “minor” it might be.

The truth is, though, that this is all the news that’s fit to print. Relaxing and recovering do not great stories make, at least not without a little effort, and I doubt you need a blow-by-blow of my Mass Effect playthrough right now. So rather than do that, I am going to conclude here. Of course, I would not leave you without a recommendation. This week, I recommend you pick up the first issue of the new Thor ongoing series, released on Wednesday by the folks at Marvel Comics. This is the beginning of the story of the new, female Thor, and while the beginning was definitely written before the ad blitz about the shift, it’s well-written and promises some interesting things going forward. Go check it out; verily, you will not be disappointed.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

On Marriage (You Knew This Was Coming)

I’m married.

It’s honestly hard to believe.

I don’t want to make it sound like wedding preparations were the single worst thing I have ever dealt with. That said, they were stressful, at times maddening, often the precipitator of fetal positions and defiant sobs. Both Sonya and I were extremely stressed during the process; so much so that when the weekend itself came, we were neither one quite prepared for how easy and pleasant it was going to be. While it was occasionally torture getting there, that pain was the price we paid to have the finale be easy. That said, the ease of it also put both of us on uneasy footing. Because the stress wasn’t there, neither of us quite believed the wedding was actually coming; we were sure even up to the moment that this wasn’t real, that we were having some sort of dress rehearsal and the real day, the clenching guts and the sweating brows and the deep, ruinous worry, had to be coming later.

On Friday we had the rehearsal dinner, and it wasn’t real then. The rehearsal was as simple and as easy as we could have hoped for, with all of the bridal party chiming in to help us make the process easier and iron out the kinks in the process. Afterwards was a lovely dinner at Rosie McCann’s (a local chain that was a common haunt for myself and my groomsmen during our college days), where the food and the booze were both superb and the company even more so. I gave my groomsmen their groomsman gifts (or the ones that had arrived, anyway), and we went back to our house with our visiting bridesmaid, Heidi, and decompressed. It still wasn’t real.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, despite the wedding being at 4. The wedding that, mind you, still wasn’t real to me. We spent the morning in panic mode, convinced that we had tons left to do, that it wouldn’t get done, that we needed to exert every last drop of energy on getting ready. With two hours to go, all that was left was dropping me off to handle decorations. For the wedding that still wasn’t real.

Decorations happened, made easy with the help of my groomsmen and one of their wives/my friend. Getting dressed happened, with the assistance of my best man getting my damn half-Windsor knot to not look like a small yellow atrocity. I mingled with the guests, and gave a million hugs, and took some candid photos I didn’t entirely expect but really should have. It still wasn’t real, even as I handed off the book with the rings hidden in it to the maid of honor and took my position for the procession.

It wasn’t real when John Williams’ theme from Superman played and my groomsmen proceeded out ahead of me. It wasn’t real when I walked up that aisle, faceless faces all around me, all looking at me. It wasn’t real when I said hello to our officiant.

Then the music shifted to the Vitamin String Quartet rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and the bridesmaids came proceeding up the aisle. And behind them came my fiancee, my girlfriend, the cool chick from OKCupid, the long string of delightful nights and excellent movies and laughter. And all of a sudden, it was real.

She looked beautiful, you guys. She looked amazing. The officiant went above and beyond the call of duty, reading out the ceremony with aplomb, including a last-minute addition from Mr. Kurt Vonnegut. Then all of a sudden I was kissing Sonya, and I had a ring on my finger, and I realized that we had just gotten married.

It would take me days to craft a description of the feeling that is worthy of it. It has taken me days just to get what I have here. Marriage really is a unique experience, an experience that changes the world and yet changes nothing all at once. An affirmation of a love we already felt and of a commitment we’d already made, a shift in terms of address that proved words could be earth-shattering. I have never been as happy as I was in that moment. So I did what I knew needed to be done, before the blur of the reception and the photos and the people wanting to congratulate us, of the gifts and the hotel room and the thousand ways the world would conspire to make sure we were happy at the beginning. I grabbed her, and I kissed her one more time, and I whispered in her ear “We made it. I love you.”

Then I kissed her one more time, and I whispered “Hail HYDRA.” It’s important to keep things in perspective.

There are a ton of people we want to thank – this wedding was a reminder of how excellent human beings can be. I am going to try to hit all the major ones here; I only hope I have not forgotten anyone in the blur of happiness I’m feeling right now.

Thank you to both our families, now our shared family, for all the support, both temporal and financial; this literally could not have happened without all of you, and you are all wonderful for having given it.

Thank you to Matt, my best man, for a wonderful speech and for all the work he did to make my bachelor party and my wedding excellent. I love you, brother.

Thank you to Nate and Nick, my other groomsmen, for your constant support, and your outspoken affection. I’m proud to call you brothers too.

Thank you to Kaitlin, my sister, for organizing the rehearsal dinner and for being a charming hostess during it. Also thanks for the quiet moment and the shot of bourbon before the festivities started; that little moment will be preserved forever in my mind.

Thank you to Alex and Bob, our photographers, who made our photos casual and fun and really, I think, captured who we are and what the wedding was. And thanks for staying late to watch us play our first board game together.

Thank you to Nathan and Patty at the Winchester Mystery House, who gave us access to an incredible site, helped us organize a fun and affordable wedding, and were so kind as to let us stay late and to store some of our leftover cupcakes after the wedding. If you need a site for an event and the Mystery House sounds good to you, go to Nathan and Patty, seriously; they will hook you right the F up.

Thank you to Bob at A Catered Affair, for incredible food on a totally doable budget. Seriously, talk to him if you need to feed a group; you will not be disappointed.

And to everyone else: thank you, too. Your presence and your love were a reminder that we love and are loved in return, by so many excellent people with whom we share wishes for mutual success. We have chosen the right community to be a part of, and we have chosen the right people to share our lives with. You, right there, are truly, literally awesome. I am in awe of you, and I am so delighted to know you.

I was asked at the reception if being married felt any different. After two days, I was ready to say that No, it really didn’t. But now that I’m alone with my thoughts, I have to say I was wrong. Marriage does feel different. It makes everything a little bit brighter.

I’m going to go spend some time with my wife now, everyone. I hope your day is anywhere near as excellent as mine.

On Cats, Nuptials, and Reluctant Collard Greens

This post was supposed to be about the countdown to my wedding. Instead, it is largely about the cat.

As of this last Friday, we were eight days away from my wedding, and I was due to cook dinner that night: collard greens with barbecued chicken and grilled pineapple. I was feeling overwhelmed by what needed to be done, and concerned about cooking something would take as long to make as collard greens on a work night; so Sonya and I decided we would address what needed to be done by going to Trader Joe’s, buying our usual “picnic” (some meat, cheese, fruit, and crackers), and then eating it and crafting wedding decorations while watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s a dinner plan that requires very little kitchen prep and is easy and fun and relaxing for us, and would be the perfect way to get us to push into the final few things we needed to do – finish the decorations, choose the last of the music, decide on the first dance, etc. We drove to Trader Joe’s, the whole way trading off the ball of stress we’ve been managing the last couple of weeks, as well as doing our usual Friday decompression, thinking about our weekend, etc. Plus we had Sonya’s bachelorette party to talk about, which was due to happen Saturday the 30th and was a source of excitement for both of us; she would get to be celebrated the way I was celebrated, and I would get the house to myself to play Sentinels of the Multiverse. Then we got home, and we knew this entire plan was going to be cast aside.

Our cat, Yossarian (“Yoshi” to his friends), has been having some issues of late. He’s been treating the tables and bench as his restroom, without regard to what objects he may actually befoul in the process. He’s also been dealing with our (apparently pretty gnarly) flea problem, courtesy of poor insulation and a local feral cat population. Given how old he is (well into his teens), we were monitoring him for signs he was getting worse, but also assuming it could just be age taking its toll and possibly the fleas annoying him into misbehavior. Also given how old he is, we were avoiding really harsh chemical remedies for the fleas, since the one time we tried that it seemed to make him nauseous and logy for several days and we didn’t want to risk killing him in the process of saving him. So we’ve been vacuuming dutifully, and spread diatomaceous earth, and waiting for a sign that we needed to do more.

Friday night, we got that sign. When we came home, Yoshi looked kind of dazed and lethargic, clearly a little upset and very, very tired. He complained at us, as he always does when we first get home, but it was very weak compared to the usual feline lambasting, and he didn’t try to make us feed him or pay attention to him the way he usually does, just sort of…sat there. We debated whether he needed to go to the doctor, or whether this was yet another bluff by the cat to get us to give him our undevoted attention. It was more extreme than his usual, but we weren’t willing to swear that it wasn’t just because his usual had stopped working as effectively.

Sonya set up dinner, putting out plates and knives and forks and washing the grapes for our little living room picnic, and we watched about thirty seconds of an episode of MLP before Yoshi tried to walk over to his food and water, wobbling and staggering the whole way. He got to his food, and just suddenly sat down, not a graceful sit so much as a slump after a failure to agree with his feet about standing. We paused the show and shared an alarmed look, and we asked ourselves “Does he need to go to the emergency vet?”

Sonya gave him some pets and some whispered queries about what he needed, and decided to try taking him to the litter box, in case maybe he was wanting to be escorted across the house (something Yoshi feels is his royal due) or was just out of sorts and couldn’t get there on his own.. When she put him down in the litter box, he stood for a moment, and then fell down again.

We agreed not long after that this was something that required a professional’s attention. Sonya went out to grab the cat carrier from the garage, while I sat and held him, trying to see if some time hanging out on one of our shoulders would revive him to his usual purring self (the thing he mostly wants when he plays at being weak or sick), and I found that he was not as warm as I was used to, and also not holding on and clawing my shoulder the way he usually does. When Sonya came back to the door with the carrier, Yoshi twisted away from my shoulder (exacting his usual price of blood in the process) and ran to the door, barking out his low, strained distress cry that means something is really wrong. Then he hunkered down on all fours there in the doorway, yowling and looking up at nothing in particular, acting as though he really could not understand what was happening to him.

For a second, we thought that could be it. That this could be the sounds of a cat in their last moments, and that we needed to comfort him and love him. But the possibility of safety was more important to us, and so Sonya hustled him into his cat carrier while I got the picnic put away and got the address of the local emergency pet clinic. We put him in the back of the Prius, and started driving for the clinic, as fast as was safe. Yoshi whined and yowled in his usual way, a little sharp and a little high and a lot angry, and we had hope that this was just sickness, not fatality. Then, as we got on the freeway, he went silent, and would not respond to us calling his name or making the kissing noises that mean we want his attention.

I say a lot of things are the worst thing in the world, or the worst time of my life, especially when the brain-spider has me in its clutches and I’m dealing with the way the world looks from inside its mouth. But there are few things I have ever done or experienced that were as harrowing and as heartbreaking as those ten silent minutes on the highway and in the low, dark suburbs of Palo Alto, trying to get Yoshi to respond to us and not being able to turn and see him. I found myself thinking that we had done everything we could to watch for signs something was wrong; that we had both loved him and snuggled him before he went in that carrier and that he knew he was loved by the actions we took to help him; and then I found myself thinking about the exact questions I would need to ask the clinic if we got there and I needed their help with memorial services and interment for our beloved ginger cat.

About three blocks from the clinic, we hit a red light, and from the back of the car, we heard a plaintive little mewl. The relief in the car was palpable.

The rest of the night was a haze of institutional white. We got the cat checked in for testing and analysis, and were told it would be an hour or so while they took his vitals and put him on heat support for his very low temperature. Dinner became a sluggish affair at McDonald’s, both of us trying to joke around and lighten the mood while we killed time on our iPads and watched the clock to see when we could go back and see the cat. Eventually, it was that time, and we listened dutifully while the doctor told us that Yoshi was anemic due to flea bites, and that we would probably need to bring him back in for a blood transfusion in the morning. They told us the fleas needed to be brought under control, and that the meds and topical cream they’d given him (on his shoulders where he couldn’t eat it, of course) would help with that, but that it was a threat to the cats life. Then we brought home a traumatized kitty and fed him the pills required by the doctors, as well as force-feeding him some red-meat-based baby food to try to help get his blood built back up; and we set about trying to get some sleep.

Sleep is impossible when you have a sick baby in the next room, whether that baby is human or is a tiny desert predator who has decided you are his parents. It’s cliche, perhaps, but I spent the night thinking about who our cat is, in between hyper-alert listening to his movement in the next room. I thought about how he’s selfish, and vocal, and persnickety about his needs and desires, but also always runs over to check on you when he hears you crying. I thought about how he likes to wake us up every morning to demand his cat treats; about how he charms everyone he meets, so much so that our corner of the Internet flooded my Facebook inbox with virtual hugs for the cat; about how he loves the Harry Potter films and will almost instantly sack out with us when we watch them; about the way his shouting echoes through the house, the way his claws dig into our shoulders when we hold him, the way he absolutely does not care if he’s inconvenienced you if he’s found that your current position affords him a choice way to sit and sleep. I thought about how lucky we are to have him in our lives, and how whatever we have to do for him is worth it if it means that his dotage is peaceful and painless.

The hour for his pill-giving came earlier than anyone wanted, but when it came time for him to eat, he at least did climb down and get food and water for himself. Then not long after came the hour of the transfusion, so we stuffed ourselves with the scones that had been intended as dessert for the living room picnic and drove Yoshi over to be dropped off. It would take between 6 and 14 hours to finish the transfusion, so we knew Sonya had plenty of time for her bachelorette party that afternoon, and that the board games I had planned would be a welcome distraction. We were able to wave bye-bye to Yoshi through the door to the back room as we left, and we counted our blessings that the vets at the clinic really, truly cared about our little man.

Saturday was honestly even more of a haze than the night before. Two good friends came over, and two others came by and dropped off their wedding gift to us – a window-mounted air conditioner, which was truly a blessing for us sweaty California gamers in our house with no AC of its own. We played Sentinels of the Multiverse after a late lunch, and found ourselves stuck waiting for the vet to call and so playing The Red Dragon Inn to pass the time while we waited (next to no setup, so easy to tear down and keep track of if we had to leave suddenly). I spoke to the doctor tending Yoshi around 7 and heard “the little stinker is eating us out of house and home,” and that he’d be ready soon. Some emergencies caused us to have to wait until 10 to get the little man, but ultimately we were able to. We spent an amount of money that did not matter, because we had it and it meant Yoshi was taken care of.

And that brings us more or less to now. Yoshi is in the house as I type this, basically rotating between eating, sleeping, and sometimes pooping somewhere inappropriate. He is not as weak or as sad as he was on Friday, and we’re not hearing distress cries, but he’s clearly not up to speed yet, either. The flea situation is mostly under control, and we’ll be getting a proper exterminator in the week of our honeymoon – the doctor’s orders are that he not be subjected to stress for a week, and with the meds and our brand-new vacuum cleaner taking the fleas to task we figure a stranger coming in and spraying weird stuff on the floor, nontoxic or not, counts as stress. Tomorrow he goes in to have his red blood cell count checked and see if the transfusion took properly, and we will hope for the best from there.

Sonya and I are both exhausted, due to the early-morning pill feedings and the constant state of alertness about his behavior. We both know we need to handle wedding stuff tonight, but in a way, we are both in a state where we almost forgot the wedding was happening. It doesn’t even feel distant; it feels like it was a part of a different life, a different schedule, one where we didn’t have our cat look like he was about to breathe his last breath on the little red welcome mat inside our front door. This took priority so heavily it actually reshaped our honeymoon plans – we’ll be day-tripping or overnighting our stay in Monterey, and later on in the week, after Yoshi’s pill regimens have already finished (which does have the bonus effect of us getting to spend time with a bridesmaid who is staying on our couch and whom Sonya has never gotten to spend time with in person). We may not get anything done tonight, really, though I have at least ordered my shoes and Sonya’s gift for the bride and groom gift exchange. I was supposed to cook the collard greens and chicken and pineapple tonight, but I simply do not have the energy. It can wait for Labor Day, it really can. It doesn’t matter in the face of our cat being safe.

In a way, as stressful and as exhausting as this has been, it has also been good. It’s proof that Sonya and I can partner up in a stressful situation, can make big financial and scheduling decisions without falling into an argument, and that we are able to do whatever it takes to take care of a small, helpless life together. Whether the next life we are tending to is Yoshi’s, or that of a baby, or a metaphorical life like a house or a car or an art project, we know we are capable of managing the stress of it together, and that the load is lighter for the other carrying it. It’s also encouraged us to tighten our budget – we’re not broke now, but we don’t have much left, and we now see very starkly the importance of having some extra cash around in case something goes wrong. But more than anything else, the stress and the exhaustion are worth it because our cat is in his heated cat bed, snoozing away with his limbs oozing out the sides, periodically getting up to chow down on his food; and not hunkering down in silence in the darkness of the back of the car, making us wonder if he’s dead.

We get married in seven days, almost to the hour; and I cannot imagine a person I would be more proud to spend my life with than the funny, smart, caring, quick-thinking, generous woman I have gone through this with. I, and Yoshi, are both lucky to have her.

One last thing. As tempting as it is, I am not asking for a handout; we had enough in savings to pay for Yoshi’s treatment and then a little bit more. However – if you want to get us a wedding gift and have not yet, money into our Wanderable account would be really, truly, vastly appreciated – it can go to the honeymoon, which gives us fewer expenses in the week to come and makes it easier for us to start recouping the cost of Yoshi’s medical treatment.

Now, I am going to go eat dinner and nuzzle my kitty, in that order. If you have a pet or a child in your life, please give them some love from us. And I hope you never experience the drive we did.

 

On Progress, 8/15/14

Today’s Episode: “Countdown to Self-Care”

It’s been a weird, stressful, angry week. I’ve felt anger at the social injustices in Ferguson, anger at the insanity in Iraq and Palestine, anger about the monolithic meat-grinder that is the wedding-industrial complex, anger about my own lack of time to write, anger about a thousand other things that were so minor they didn’t rate a spot in my memory of this week. The “weird” part comes because this week has actually been pretty good, overall. Sonya and I took some steps to deal with our unreasonable sleep schedule (we only get to sleep on the schedule of degenerate artists when we have degenerated into doing nothing but being artists); I had a mostly very good week at work; I had an excellent bachelor party. What’s not to like?

So let me talk about what I did like. Let me shovel my way out from under this mood.

Positive: I realized this week that writing characters who are progressive, rather than traditional, makes my writing feel fresher and cleaner and deeper than the alternative; that optimistic commentary on the world feels better than just kicking dirt and screaming. This is huge; this informs all my work for years to come, or at least until the next epiphany.

Positive: I received a new board game last night (Sentinel Tactics, for those of you keeping track at home) that I am excited to play. I am cleaning out space in a miniature transportation solution I bought for a now-defunct game to put the new minis in (Monsterpocalypse, you are going into storage until I decide if I want to sell you off), and I am looking at sleeves for the cards, and I am otherwise engaging in the little rituals that come with new games. It’s cleansing.

Positive: The creator of my favorite game congratulated me on my upcoming wedding. How cool is that?

Positive: I am really proud of Eyes of Stone. It has edits that need to be made, but I now have enough experience with writing to understand that those edits are a natural part of the process and that I should embrace the need to edit, not resent it.

Positive: Comics. This will be where I stop and talk about my writing process this week.

Midway through the week, I was feeling stuck on Eyes of Stone, a little mix of dread and burnout. Ordinarily I’d power through, but you see, this week has been, as mentioned, stressful; and so I decided to take a little two-day break and work on something else. I was considering a short story, but I’ve been reading Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis, and so I decided to take that leap again (after an abortive attempt last year), and go ahead and try out a comic book script.

It was exquisitely hard. Writing a comic book script is a completely different planet than writing prose; they both orbit near Planet Dialogue, but otherwise have very little in common. Directions to the artist need to be precise and clear, but leave them room for their own inspirations; you need to be aware not just of the flow of the plot, but of the flow of the page, of the way panel size affects the information you can convey, the amount of dialogue you can fit into a panel before you’re drowning the art, and a thousand other considerations. At the same time, it’s also very freeing, because my job as a comic book writer is not to describe every little thing – so much of that can be conveyed in the art, and so much of that should be left to the art. It is enough to say that two characters are yelling each other and to label each with the emotions underlying their shouting; the artist will find a way to convey that. I get to focus on the dialogue and on the captions, and turn a phrase here and there, and think about the story in a very different way than I would normally. It’s refreshing, and this is a project I am glad to be starting. I just hope I find a way to complete it some day. (Not in the sense of completing the script – that I can do. In the sense of finding an artist who wants to collaborate and getting this bastard published.)

The best part of the brief interlude has been not only having a new project to work on, but to have a new respect for the needs of my old project. I see very clearly now the things about a novel that are particular to a novel, and the things I can do with that medium that I can’t with another. It sounds obvious when said out loud – you can play with description in a novel in a way you cannot with a graphic novel, because in a graphic novel you are literally showing, not describing. You can do things with words you can’t with art, and things you can’t with words. For some, that will be simple fact, a patently obvious idea that they could probably have told me before without me going through this. For me, it is further steps in the journey away from the stilted voice I tried to contort myself into in my early twenties, and a movement toward myself as a complete writer. It feels good.

There is one last update I need to write here, that I would be doing myself and my friends an injustice if I did not discuss it. Positive: My bachelor party was amazing.

I want to give you a full itinerary, but I’m not sure that would be fun for anyone. We ate incredible food (check out Original Gravity in downtown San Jose, California some time); we played my favorite games; we walked in the shadows of the redwoods; we spent time in Santa Cruz, a town I miss as a symbol as much as a destination; we joked and we drank and we were friends together. Friends who I met just a year or two ago; friends who I’ve known for nearly twenty years now. People who matter, who I care about, who have been companions on the weird and crazy and sometimes stupid journey that is life. People who have been there for all the other transitions, and who have proven they will be there for even more. I want to write every one of them a personalized letter telling them how amazing they are, how lucky I am to have them in my lives; how no matter how much we may disagree here or bicker there, we are a constant in each others’ lives and a rock we can chain ourselves to when we need to. I love you guys, and I don’t say that lightly.

I do want to give one special shout-out to Matt, my best man, who arranged the whole thing and executed it flawlessly. Matt and I started out as friends via other friends, but since I met him in 1999 we’ve become more than that. He knows me well enough that he anticipated things I’d want to do without asking first, inserted extra ideas that turned out to be exactly what I wanted when he asked me for approval, and even invited people he hadn’t met into his home because they were important to me. He’s a great guy, and we’re all lucky to have him in the world. Thanks, brother.

With that, I am going to let this sucker go out into the wilds of the Internet. For your weekend recommendation, I suggest you check out Words for Pictures, by Brian Michael Bendis. If you’ve thought about writing comics, it’s an insightful and informative look into how the sausage is actually made, and full of ideas for people trying to break into the medium that seem very solid. I know it’s got me sitting here, looking at a handful of script pages and wanting to write even more. If you aren’t into writing comics, I suggest you go back and watch Batman: the Animated Series instead. Heck, if you are into writing comics, you should probably do both.

And now, I am off to finish my work day, and then indulge in some self-care before tomorrow’s wedding preparations. Stay awesome, everybody.

On the Other Kind of Progress

I have not known what to write for the past several days.

There’s been a blog post in me, I know it. About the suicide of Robin Williams. About the militarized insanity going on in Ferguson and the failure of the mainstream media to report on it. About the bloodstained tension drenching Palestine, about the minimum of three other people of color who have been shot by police while we’ve been watching the Ferguson police department turn their streets into Jericho fanfiction, about my own sense of helplessness and fear, and about everything else that seems to be going on in this world. But I’ve had no idea how to write it.

It’s not just about being blessedly and accursedly separate from these issues by virtue of the privileges accidentally granted to me. It’s not just about being afraid of offending someone, or about being afraid to stand up and take part in what may well be a revolution. It’s about just not quite knowing what to say, or what to do. I want to help. But all I have is my little blog, and my little writings, and I’m not clear on where to put those that might help blow a kneecap, Spider Jerusalem-style, off the craziness of this world.

We can better than this. I want to help us be better than this. I want to reach out to those who want to do what Robin Williams did, and if not stop them, at least let them talk to someone before they decide ending it is the right decision. I want to stand up and say, somewhere the police and the government will hear it unavoidably, that the Ferguson and St. Louis County police are the enemy of a free and just society, not the protectors. I want to grab the world by the roots and drag it up into the light, despite the many people who would see us crawl and scrabble in the dark. And I want to believe that somewhere inside me are the words that will make that happen, the long enough lever and the stable place to stand that will move this god-damn planet and all its wonderful and horrible inhabitants.

That’s a lot to put on myself. But it’s also a burden that I think writers need to bear. Not that we need to preach to you in everything we do – let’s look at how well that worked out for the Left Behind series – but that we need to be aware of the world we are portraying in the entertainment we produce, because that world is more real than the world in which the entertainment is digested. I’ve said it before: stories are how most humans approach the world, even if they aren’t stories packaged with title pages and bylines and the trappings of literature. The stories we tell need to be stories of a world that is better than this, of a world where more is expected of its inhabitants. And for now, that is what I can do. I can tell those stories.

Sonya and I were talking last night, on the way to pick up my clothes for our wedding (our wedding!). We were discussing a recent themed call for submissions by a magazine we both like, and how we would each approach the story. We agreed that her idea was more interesting, and my idea was both a little more prosaic and a lot less progressive (also more than a little cynical). This wasn’t a judgment on anyone’s part, just a fact of the ideas as laid out. But seeing it laid out made me start thinking.

Up to now, looking at my published writing, my biggest successes have been my most progressive and socially aware – even though I wasn’t really meaning to do that, and possibly even because I wasn’t meaning to do that. “And She Walked” was about trying to make a good world out of the world you live in, rather than expecting to magically fix it. “Act Natural” is about racial profiling. “Riding Westbound” is about the power of stories to change the world, and about the disaster of cultural mores not catching up to physical and economic realities fast enough. “Vote Your Conscience” is a flashbang condemnation of the single-issue voter. And my latest few are about the Othering of people whose capacities scare you, and the things that oppression and segregation “for one’s own good” do to a person’s psyche. The one that sticks out as politically neutral is “Live from the Serpent Room,” which is mostly an exploration of what an underground society of magicians might actually look like, a glimpse into the kinds of people who would actually dwell there – appropriate, since that’s the theme of the connected novel, but that’s a novel I have struggled to get off the ground. And that’s the thing that clicked today.

The thing I can do for this world, that my particular position affords me the power to do, is to write stories about how we can be better, not just about how we are bad. Stories that include people who tend to not be included; that talk about experiences that tend to be talked over; and that portray a world where, even if the good guys don’t necessarily win, even if the hero doesn’t end up better off than they were at the start, there is value to the journey and victory in the struggle. I can comment on it and I can say more than “this is horrible and the world sucks,” the stance of so much mainstream pabulum.

I’m not saying everything from here on out needs to be preachy. I’m not saying my next short story is going to be “THIS IS THE SITUATION IN FERGUSON MISSOURI EXCEPT THE COPS ARE NOW WEREWOLVES.” I’m not saying I will never write anything fun or funny. I am not saying I do not need to stay informed, to protest when I believe I need to protest, to sign petitions and donate money and yes, to get my feet on the ground and help enact change. I’m not saying that I am suddenly going to stop focusing on telling stories first. What I am saying is that I know now what I can do for the world with the skills I have developed and the talent I’ve been given. I can help write our way to a better world at the same time as I find ways to go out and make it happen off the page.

To merge my money and my mouth: If you need to see better coverage of the situation in Ferguson, follow @AntonioFrench on Twitter. If you want a real education in dealing with being black in America from a woman with an enormous brain, check out @LEHLight. If you want to give your gaming money to a company that endorses progressive and inclusive policies, check out Machine Age Productions. And if anyone reading this needs someone to talk to about coping with the world, send me a message and I will listen. It’s not a lot; but it’s a start.

Now excuse me. I need to make some tweaks to literally everything I’m currently writing.

On Progress, 8/8/14

Here we are, born to be kings.

The point of these posts is writing updates, and so I will give you one: those rearrangements for Eyes of Stone I talked about a couple weeks ago have really improved the first third of the book. I’ve also been reading a fantastic (if disjointed) book on writing suspense fiction by Patricia Highsmith that has given me some new ideas for how to tackle outlining and editing my manuscripts, which even if they do not work for me are worthwhile and promising experiments. I’m happy about where my writing is at right now, and I’m happy about where it’s going, and that’s what really matters.

If that seems perfunctory, it’s because I have something unique to fixate on this weekend. Because this weekend is my bachelor party.

The wedding process has been stressful, to be sure. It’s been a huge sinkhole of energy, and a huge amount of work, and part of that is because both Sonya and I intend to only do this once, and that means we only get to do this once. So we’re worried about the decorations, and the invitations, and the music, and the setting, and the weather, and every other weird thing we can possibly be worried about, and when the magic answer to everything is “throw money at it,” it doesn’t exactly help.

The bachelor party is also something I’m only going to do once; but I’m not worried about it. Not only because I didn’t have to plan it beyond stating my kingly whims, but because I trust my best man and my friends to do it up right. They don’t even need to exert that much effort – I am emotionally high-maintenance but easy with entertainment.

There will be board games, especially Arkham Horror and Sentinels of the Multiverse; there will be a hike in the Santa Cruz redwoods, the place I still associate most closely with peace; there will be Mexican food; and gourmet sausages; and oceans of whisky and beer.

There will be photographs of consenting parties, because the “Bro Code” that forbids photos at bachelor parties is patriarchal drek that presumes there is something at bachelor parties that needs to be hidden and that a man has a right to hide it from his partner in the first place.

There will not be a Burger King crown, because I forgot to order a Kid’s Meal, but I can find something else ridiculous to put on my head.

But more important than any or all of that, there will be friends. Matt, Nate, and Joe, my brothers through the struggles of college and the anger and depression of my early twenties; Nick, my fourth brother from another mother, met only after I’d graduated but nonetheless held onto through the thick of it; and Adam and Terrance, recently met but no less welcome nor less liked, two of the best reasons I can think of for not regretting the stressful parts of getting back into LARPing. All of these men have been good enough to join me for this party, Matt and his wife have been beyond kind in letting us have the party at their place, and I know this is going to be a weekend to remember even if nothing breaks or combusts.

I want to say more, but I also don’t want to layer a lot of expectations onto the weekend. This is going to be one of the only times I celebrate without shame and relax without guilt, and I am going to let myself do those things and just go with the flow. This weekend is my bachelor party; there are many like it, but this one is mine, and nothing is ever going to make it anything less than amazing.

I will not leave you without a recommendation this week. My recommendation is that you go see Guardians of the Galaxy. It has some pacing issues, but it’s the right mix of serious and funny; the characters are fun to watch and well-executed; the story manages to introduce the watcher to the cosmic Marvel mythology without drowning them; and most important to me, it shows us what a world of edgy loner criminals actually looks like -  everyone is constantly betraying everyone else, nobody trusts anybody, everyone’s motives are selfish, but when the stakes raise to something above “stay alive,” the good and evil parties start to show their true colors. Seriously, watch it; but be braced for a stinger that will make you wish you hadn’t stuck around.

Have a good weekend, everybody. I know I will.

On Progress, 7/25/14

Subtitle: Notes from the Sweaty Malaise of Summer

I hate heat. I mean, I really hate heat. I would always rather be cold than hot, to the point where as a child I refused to wear snow gear in the snow because I was actually more comfortable being cold (and perhaps a bit wet) than I was in the stuffy snow clothes. I hate the feeling of having sweat on my body unless I have just exercised and can appropriately shower down afterwards; I hate the way my clothes stick and darken and stain; I hate the way my skin (always sensitive since the day I was born) is abraded by the salt unless I pay nearly surgical attention to it and the way those irritations stick with me long after the heat has passed. I hate being afraid to put on a pair of pants or a slightly-too-thick shirt. I want fog, and rain, and to sometimes zip up my hoodie against the breeze. I want every painting of Seattle; I want every movie about London. I want to stand on a tor with wind slapping and punching at me and not be able to see anything but gray mist and the condensation on my glasses.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t giving me that option. Instead I’m having to just pray to the gods of air conditioning and try to do whatever I can to make myself comfortable. It’s having kind of a major impact on my mood, which I say partially as a preamble to…

The writing update. This week’s writing has been, mmm, circuitous? I’ve been going back and doing what I’ve termed my ret-cons, changing a few things about a few characters and situations. Partially, it’s an effort to have better representation, as several of my  characters were white-by-default, had no particular reason to be white, and in a couple cases had every reason to be something other than white. I also realized I had been engaging in a couple cases of tacit erasure of marginalized groups (through failing to represent them even though they would absolutely be represented in this story), and I wanted to fix that. I had to carefully consider whether these retcons were me engaging in tokenism or fishing for ally cookies, but after some thought I decided that, no, they are not; and so I began.

Unfortunately, in beginning, I ran into what I will call a case of my writing being both Real But Boring and engaging in some nasty psychological time compression. Two of my main characters have an ongoing argument throughout the first part of the book, mostly involving the way the main character is approaching the strange situation that forms the crux of the story. This is a natural thing to include in a book that is basically a loving deconstruction of urban fantasy tropes (I love me some of that); of course there’s a Doubting Thomas of a friend who thinks the main character’s quest is either madness or frivolity. The Real But Boring problem is, the main characters spend too many pages having that argument – they keep starting to bring it up, getting distracted, and going back to it. Some of that is OK, but too much of that is not fun to read about – the revisited argument takes the place of plot advancement or character development, the same way it can when a TV show needs to pad out an episode. The time compression problem is that the main characters are far, far too open and invested in each other for who they are and how long they’ve known each other. A year or so of familiarity is assumed in four weeks; while some of this is the main character’s personality coming through, it’s happening with the people around him, too, so it’s an issue with the writing. This is a classic television problem, and also a problem with trying to use time in the way I was in this book; another case of a much younger me being Clever and digging himself into a hole. I tried to parcel out the story in weeks of the school year rather than natural chapter breaks, and it’s causing me some issues – especially once I calculated out how far into fall quarter Thanksgiving break would actually be.

I realized these things, and through realizing these things, I realized that, quite simply, what Eyes of Stone needed was for me to go back and outline these chapters and make sure everything feeds into the advancement of the plot and the development of the characters. I was still trying to be a seat-of-the-pants writer when I wrote this, and the repetition is likely a symptom of that. The big, revelatory part of the argument can happen later in the year; the characters can have multiple conflicts over it but it should be used to either drive a character to where they need to be or to show the changes their situation is causing for them. These are qualities that will improve the book; and honestly, including them will only require a bit of nip and tuck – in other words, my prose is not a doomed pile of terrible crap, it merely needs some refinement, which is exactly what the editing process is all about.

The problem is, in going back and doing this rearrangement and refinfement; I am not moving forward with the rest of the book; and the other problem is, I’ve changed how I am handling the rearrangement and refinement something like three times already. This is a thing I do sometimes, spiraling around what I view as a weak spot in the writing, and it usually hits when I’m going through a patch of impostor syndrome, or when I’ve been smacked with some criticism of my writing, or have otherwise been given cause to linger in the Land of Doubt. I’ll tend to try to get a small patch of writing “perfect” and wind up driving myself insane going over it and over it and over it. In this case, I do think it’s necessary to address a weakness in the opening of the book, but am I saying that because I want to let myself spin rather than move forward? Am I afraid of finishing this and showing it to someone else? Do I want to just hover in this liminal space for ever, uncomfortable as it might be?

All of this points to me being overstressed on the writing front; I’m the equivalent of the meth-head at midnight, face pressed to the grout as I savage it with a bleach-soaked toothbrush. I am under an amount of stress I do not always realize is there, and I am in a part of the year where my mood is often bad and my energy level low, which makes it very easy for me to get self-critical and try to feed the inner critic and correct one small thing rather than deal with moving forward and come back to it later. I need to take two steps backward and let my brain sort itself out.This isn’t to say that I will not do the edits I’m doing, or that the rearrangement does not lead to a stronger book; but it is to say that I recognize that editing angry is about a bad as driving angry in terms of the damage done to the object of the sentence.

The good news is, this need to unplug comes just in time for me to be taking one of my biannual trips to Mendocino County. This time tomorrow I will be in a car, your choice of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye or the audiobook of Soon I Will Be Invincible blasting on the speakers. I will sleep in every day up through Tuesday; I will eat food that reminds me of a simpler, lighter time when my biggest jobs were math homework and Silent Hill; and maybe, if I have the money, I’ll look into getting a massage while I’m up there. I will not make myself get on the Internet, and I will not demand any of my HabitRPG tasks of myself, including my daily word count. I can disconnect geographically and mentally and let my batteries recharge. There is no doubt I have tolls being taken of me that I do not always see, and that I drive myself harder than it’s possible I should; so it’s time to give myself a break.

But just in case, I’m bringing my laptop. Just because I’m giving myself a break doesn’t mean the muse won’t strike – and some solid prose-work can be a wonderful accent to a vacation.

I always end on a recommendation, and this week will be no different. This week, I recommend to you the comic book known as Rat Queens. The titular Queens are an adventuring party in a world unabashedly inspired by D&D, with a heavy dose of modernity in their dialogue. The characters and the art in this are the big sellers, with a rich, relaxed style to the panels that really meshes well with the kind of story being told. The Queens are capable, brutal fighters, all of them adept at their own shtick, and all of them unafraid of themselves – whether that self is kind, sarcastic, foul-mouthed, serious, or socially awkward. They have problems and backstories that real people might have in the insane world they find themselves in, and their personalities are very clear and compelling, jumping right off the page and making you wonder which one is your favorite – which, as Sonya says, is the primary hallmark of a good ensemble cast. The book is violent, with middling levels of gore (more than your average Marvel comic but less than Sin City), and the adult language flows like so much water; if those don’t bother you, the story is just too much fun to pass up.

Have a good wekeend, everybody. Leave a sacrifice with the thermometer gods for me.

On Progress, 7/18/14

The symbol for this week is a slug.

I’ve had another one of those “off-week” things that apparently occurs for us humans. I’ve made word count every day, but I’ve only once or twice felt good about the word count I made on any given day. I’m mired in self-doubt about this segment of the novel, about my prose in general, about life and the way I live it and whether I will look back on it in joy. In other words, I appear to be waging a war with a bout of depression. (My depression is particularly existential, it seems.)

These things happen – depression and anxiety are co-morbid, and as discussed ad nauseam in previous posts, I have plenty of things pressing on my anxiety of late, so it’s no surprise that depression has come to call. It does make my brain a tricky landscape to navigate right now, though – it’s hard to trust my instincts when I’m acutely aware that my instincts may, in fact, be malfunctioning.

On a more positive note, this whole situation has reinforced my need for a writing group to call my own. While I won’t pretend a writing group is entirely for my own benefit (file that idea under “unfair”), having that kind of support network there to give me external feedback on my writing is one method of combating the brain-chiggers when they dig in to my gray matter; whether or not I am depressed will not have much bearing on how someone else thinks. So, while that’s frustrating right now, I am looking toward a future where I can take steps to improve this very thing, and that’s before I consider my plan to seek therapy.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my writing workload light for next week – some retroactive continuity changes to Eyes of Stone that won’t require a lot of fresh prose, and some magazine submissions for my orphaned pieces. Some light exercise and thin broth while my poor sick brain heals.

Also in good news for this week – I can tell I’m climbing out of the depression, and I can tell why. It’s the same answer I’ve always come back to, no matter the shape of the shadow cast over my life: art. I’m feeling better because I’m being exposed to new and interesting shows, and books, and stories. I just finished Moby Dick, which truly deserves its place in the Western canon, whaling essays and all; I’m in the midst of the sixth volume of Astro City, which has absolutely earned a place in the Western comics canon, full stop with no qualifying statements; Sonya is watching The Bridge, another Americanization of a Nordic beautiful-dead-girl story (that surprisingly has not had a hidden BDSM dungeon show up yet) that actually has some great characterization in it, and is addressing issues with the Mexican-American immigration situation that I have not seen so starkly rendered on TV before; and we’re both watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a cop comedy from the folks who brought us Parks & Recreation, and one that is just as full of the quirkiness and empathy that makes that show so great. All of these are excellent for their own unique reasons, and all of these are helping me to remember what good writing looks and tastes and sounds like.

This all leads up to my obvious writing revelation of the week: complex prose is not necessarily good prose. A lot of the best character moments in these shows and books are rendered in plain, simple English, sometimes salted with dialect. Melville’s prose is poetic bordering on the Homeric, and Ahab in particular sounds like he subsists entirely on a diet of amphetamines and Bibles, but even that great, baroque style is simple where it needs to be, with plain-stated phrases serving to contrast Ahab’s bombast. Good writing isn’t just showing off your vocabulary; it’s saying things in a way that make people feel it instead of just read it. It’s about wit, and wit is often about brevity.

I realize that’s one of those lessons your writing teacher gives you in the first couple of classes; but on the list of things the brain-chiggers whisper to me in the long watches of my self-doubt is the idea that my prose isn’t poetic enough, that I need to use bigger words and more words or I’m failing my audience. To be fair, that’s not so much an issue in what I’ve had published – surprise, surprise, the things I have published have transcended my weaknesses as a writer! – but it is definitely something my inner critic seems to harp on, so however obvious it may seem from outside this poisonous little bubble, keeping this idea in mind will be invaluable as I swim back toward the surface of things.

Speaking of writing, it’s time I go do some for the day job. Engineering problems wait for no man, or some such thing. To cap off the week – my recommendation to you is, in fact, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s got the production values of a sitcom, but it’s got the signature, humanist Fremulon style that Parks & Recreation also carries, where the characters are pretty much equally weird, and even the most awful character comes packaged with a lot of empathy. It’s also proof Andy Samberg is more than jokes about genitalia and incest, which makes me feel better about the world as a whole. If you liked Parks & Rec, you won’t be disappointed.

And with that, I am off. Have a good weekend, everyone!