The Perils Of Unemployment

What day is today? Really?

Yeah, I thought it was Tuesday. I need to keep better track of that.

In unrelated news, you can now follow me on Twitter. I know; the moment you’ve been waiting for since Monday. Or Saturday.

There’s a convenient widget in the column on the right, perfect for those of you on the go.

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Do It Yourself

I was at the Maker Faire this weekend and my mind was blown.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Maker Faire, start with the concept of a grade school science fair, add a decade or three to the ages of the participants, give them college degrees, and allow them to use all the tools and materials in the shop, not just safety-scissors, tape, and cardstock.  It’s a fantastic weekend of wild creativity untethered to financial concerns or pursuits.  If you ever have the opportunity to go, I strongly suggest you do.  There is something for everyone and you’ll leave with your mind cracked wide open to a million possibilities.  This astounding event goes a long way towards proving the theory that anything is possible.  It just takes someone to go out there and do it, conventional wisdom and monetary interests be damned.

I’m going to share links to some of the vendors and exhibitors over time, but today I’m starting with The Poetry StoreThe Poetry Store is a creation by a delightful woman named Silvi who writes poetry, but packages it in a way that brings it out of dusty old library books and makes it immediate and accessible and wonderful.  In her own words, here is how it works:

1. you want a poem.

2. you carefully select a piece of paper on which your poem will be written.

3. you tell the poet what you want your poem to be about.

in three minutes or less, you will have your poem–as spontaneous as combustion and as original as bergamot and balsamic on your ice cream.

satisfaction is guaranteed.

I don’t know what bergamot is and I’m lactose intolerant, so ice cream is out of the question anyway, but that’s neither here nor there.

Silvi sat in a little chair in front of a tiny table with a non-electric typewriter at her fingertips, ready to create for the masses.  Her poems are staggeringly poignant and sensitive; no limericks or overtly comedic poems here.  They are deceptively touching and as light and delicious as the air wafting from the front door of a bakery.  Intoxicating.

Silvi is a perfect example of how to combine the new with the old; websites and social media in the service of tapping out subtle poetry on decades-old equipment.  How utterly perfect.  She has captured what I’m trying to do here.  Having a publisher reaching all corners of the globe with my work sounds fantastic, but for now, it’s just you and me, here, on my blog and in our inboxes, just because we can.

What ideas do you have rolling around the back of your head that you haven’t tried yet?

Wiped Out

This is my last week of work and, let me tell you, the long, slow death is no fun.  The shop is closing in December, but we’ve got different end dates for different groups of folks.  I’m in the first wave out the door and I’m completely exhausted.  With this experience, I have an inkling of what it might be like to be a celebrity.

When a new movie comes out, the stars are trotted out to make the rounds; talk shows, newspapers, magazines, radio shows, etc.  Anything to promote the film.  There are only so many ways to ask the same questions.  How did the film turn out?  Were you excited about working with so-and-so?  Do you think it will do well at the box office?  What projects do you have coming up next? The repetition has got to be numbing.  With dozens if not hundreds of media outlets, the stars must go a little nutty at the end of a junket, regardless of how well-compensated they may be.  This relates to my situation in that, as well-meaning as people may be, it’s draining to be asked the same questions over and over by everyone who stops by my desk, especially since my answers aren’t giving me any comfort.  What are you going to do next? (No clue.)  Any prospects? (Not yet.)  Who’s going to take care of stuff after you leave? (I’m being let go.  I’m not so devoted to the cause that I’m going to continue to care much after I’m shown the door.  No offense.)  It’s tough to keep my chin up, but I’m doing my best.  Like I said, everyone’s intentions are good.  That counts for a lot.

What does this have to do with the novel?  Not much, except that the writing is going slowly.  Painfully so.  I’m looking forward to the weekend when I can put that ordeal behind me and move forward.  I’m ready to scoop the junk out of my head and dig down to the gold nuggets.  I know they’re in there.  I can’t wait to get at them.

@#$%!!

I vividly remember the first time I saw a bad word in a book.

It was around 1977 and Jaws was ubiquitous.  The book was a monumental best seller and the movie went on to change the film industry, chasing thousands of beachgoers from the waters surrounding Long Island.  You couldn’t walk through the brand new Sunrise Mall in my hometown of Massapequa, NY, without seeing a Jaws-related book or board game or magazine or soundtrack record for sale.  It was everywhere.

I hadn’t seen the movie.  I was too young.  Well, to be clear, I was told I was too young.  I had other ideas since everyone in school couldn’t stop yapping about the movie.  They went on and on about the scene with “the head”.

“Jaws was amazing!!”

“Yeah, that scene with the head…”

“The head!!  Oh, my god!  That scared the crap out of me!”

It would be a few years until I knew what they were talking about.

I was browsing a book store at the mall one day and picked up a copy of the paperback.  I cracked it open to a random page and saw this, right at the top:

“Shit!” said Quint.

I might be getting the “said Quint” part wrong, because I was too taken aback by the first word to properly remember the next two.  I quickly shut the book, eyes comically bugging out, no doubt.  Just as quickly, I realized my mistake and started pawing through the book, trying to find that page again.  Did I really see that?  Can you print things like that in books?  I thought this was a best-seller!  Books with dirty words can’t be best-sellers!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that word written out!

Obviously I was a bit sheltered and completely misguided in my view of the world.

I’ve aged a bit since then and have seen and used my share of bad language.  As a matter of fact, it’s kind of become one of my signature moves.  Rough language is like shorthand.  It’s a quick way to get a bolt of lightning right where you need it to be.  There is precious little room for misinterpretation when you’re throwing out F-bombs.  Consider yourselves warned.

I still haven’t read Jaws, but you can bet that when I come across that page I’ll be turning the corner down for future reference.

"Shit!" said Quint.

Week #2

Hello and welcome to Week #2. We launched the site Week #1 and here we are, one week later.

Great times.

What makes Week #2 so interesting is that two things happen starting right now:

1. Actual blogging starts.
2. Actual novel writing starts.

Hallelujah.

The dust has settled it’s time to get down to the actual work.  I’m still working out some pesky details (Will my three-year old computer last a whole year?  Do I really have to pay full price for Adobe Acrobat?!), but I’m confident those things will work themselves out with a little kick in the pants by yours truly.

As we progress, I’ll be adding widgets to the sidebar to make the experience a little more visually stimulating.  First up, though, is my email address.  It’s over there under the heading Contact The Author.  Did you know that the formatting I’m using is a common technique employed to thwart site-trawling bots from snatching email addresses?  It’s true.  Zombie computers all over the world are constantly combing the globe’s billions of websites, collecting addresses for the sole purpose of disgorging appalling quantities of useless spam into unsuspecting inboxes.  By spelling it out like that, you make your address not look like an address, which allows you to hide in plain sight.

There’s your tech tip of the day.

I plan to post something every weekday here, allowing for the odd day when sunspots cause the internet to freeze up or there truly is nothing to say.

We’re off and running, folks.

An Introduction

When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, it was all about the money.

Allow me to explain…

Back in the mid-1800s, Dickens found himself with a deficit in cash and a surplus of mouths to feed with the holidays fast approaching.  He was working on Martin Chuzzlewit at the time – a lengthy novel – and did a little math.  It would be months before he would be able to finish it, meaning it would be months before he saw any money.  With necessity being the mother of invention, he went to his publisher and worked out a deal to serialize a shorter book that he could get paid for right away.  Enter Scrooge, Marley, and the rest of the crew.  Ch-ching.  Merry Christmas, Mr. Dickens.

Cervantes succumbed to the lure of a solid payday, as well.  Tired of writing novels with minuscule readerships, he cranked out the equivalent of Bridget Jones’ Diary – a book that would appeal to the lowest common denominator and score him some much needed cash flow.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Don Quixote of La Mancha.  Intended to be a throwaway, the joke was on Cervantes as it turned out to be his most enduring work.  Raise your hand if you can recall anything else he wrote.  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Serializing a novel or writing for a particular market is a time-honored tradition.  According to this historical document, even Shakespeare cashed in.

You might be saying to yourself, “That’s nice, but what does any of this have to do with anything?”  Good question.

I’ve been hard at work on a novel called Wild America.  Like Dickens, though, time is of the essence – the day job went belly up – so I’m circumventing the traditional publishing model.  I’m going to write and serialize a new novel and blog the whole process.  The book is called Speck Martin and it will be written and distributed over the course of a year, with new installments arriving once per month in your inbox via pdf file.  This blog will serve as a window into the whole experience and alert you to announcements and opportunities to contribute. A lot could happen over the course of a year and anything is possible.  Peace of mind coupled with the satisfaction of spinning a tale well told?  Sure, why not.  A total nervous and emotional breakdown due to crippling writer’s block and an extreme lack of social contact?  Now we’re talking.  That’s why I’m so excited about this project.  Everything is on the table.  None of us can imagine where this might go.  I have a book cover, one character, and a basic concept, but that’s about all.  We’re all taking this leap and starting this thrilling adventure together.  It’s a well-worn literary path, from Charles Dickens to Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities) to Stephen King (The Green Mile), and I’m eager to take you along for the journey.  I’m also counting on you to get involved and keep me functional by leaving comments here or sending me emails.  There will be days my heart will threaten to explode out of my chest from elation as the words flow unabated.  There will also be days I’ll be ready to douse myself in lamp oil and wander outside for a smoke.  Throughout all of the ups and downs, I promise to give you my very best work.  All meat, no filler.

The first installment arrives mid-June.

We’re in for an intense ride.  Thanks for joining me.  Strap in.