May 29, 2012

You Can't Take It With You

I was reading the sample ebook of READY PLAYER ONE on my nook this morning, and I ran across a phrase you see pretty often. "You can't take it with you." A few weeks ago I was editing the crypt scene in PRINCE OF CATS. Traditional royal burial of millennia past where they were given all the goods they needed for the afterlife. Seeds, farming equipment, fine silks, jewelry, etc etc.

And it made me think. What if you can take it with you. Think of all the different ways people have been buried. What if that burial is a portal to the next stage of existence and what you're buried with is all that goes with you. There would be people that would have control of all the food because they came through with the tools and the seed necessary to farm. There'd be others that would come through with armor and swords and what not. Other people that come through with valuable gems and jewelry, whatever other treasures buried with them.

How would you feel if you were some schmuck that showed up in the new world and all you had with you was a lame blue suit?

May 25, 2012


When I was in college, everyone I knew had seen Mallrats. If I said "fuckis," I didn't have to explain what that meant. Unfortunately, the fortune teller scene from Mallrats isn't on YouTube so if you haven't seen the movie, I can't explain it to you.

Lately, I've needed to improve my fuckis. I'm querying a manuscript, and usually I'll take a little bit of time off before starting something new. (It used to be tow weeks, then one, then at least a couple days.) But, because I held off on the final draft before querying, I finished a first draft of another book. So I've been revising that one to get it in shape for sending to beta readers. There are some things getting in the way of that.

I got a new CPAP machine, and I don't think it's as effective as my old one. I'm tired more often, although it's not as bad as when I first got it.

I finished my December "busy schedule" months late (as content was turned over late, not because I'm not awesome) and unfortunately that rolled right into my summer busy season. So I'm kind of tired because there was no down time. There are also big changes going on at work, which means a lot of people making a lot of mistakes, and I have to run around with my hands in the air going, "No, no that's not right! Stop that! Stop that this instant!"

I downloaded "Towers n Trolls" to my phone. I've had bad luck with tower defense games before. None of them really held my interest. This one, despite it's pay-to-play structure after level 2, has been scratching that itch. Usually I play it until the conductor sees my pass and then I bust out the computer. But today, I played it all the way into Boston (and on the subway and during lunch). I've beaten the game already, but now I'm beating on BRUTAL! and for some reason, I'm making that effort. I don't usually need to make that effort, but this time around I am. *shrug*

It's also leading to a lot of introspection. I've mentioned that I prefer intrigue to standard adventure, but I keep writing adventure instead of intrigue. It feels like I used up all my intrigue juice writing D&D adventures, and I'm just waiting for it to rejuvenate. I gotta take a break from adventure, though. These stories are starting to feel too similar.

How's your work going? Are you writing? Because you said you were going to put more effort into writing, so you should be doing that. Chop chop, and stuff.

May 22, 2012

The Assistant

Everyone always calls agents the gatekeepers. This is silly. Agents aren't gatekeepers. Agents' assistants are gatekeepers. So keep that in mind the next time you think an assistant is beneath you.

Okay, really, no one reading my journal right now is a Douchebag McAsshole that would condescend an assistant. But some day I'll be popular and shit and there's always that percentage that think it's okay to treat the assistants like crap. These people are dumb. Not the assistants, the Douchebags McAssholes. So I'm talking to you right now, dumb person. Be nice to the assistants. They've earned it. And it's in your best interest.

At my day job, I sit across from an editorial assistant. I work hard at my day job. I do a good job at my day job. And that assistant is there before me and she's there after me. I actually check in the morning just to make sure she's wearing different clothes. The day she spends the night at work, we're having an intervention. Assistants work a LOT. They do a lot of the work we thank agents/editors for. They're the horses that pull the plows. Don't just thank a farmer for your sammich. Without those horses, he couldn't have even planted the wheat.

But you think to yourself, assistants are young and inexperienced. What do they know? I will grant you that an assistant is typically an entry level job1, 2, but they're inexperienced for about the first week. Then they've logged enough combat time that you can call them veterans, so get off your high horse. And really, what's the point of being shitty to the assistant anyway? Don't you have manners? Are please and thank you so hard? Cut them some slack. They're clocking 90 hours a week and have to live with four roommates to keep a roof over their heads because they don't make any money, so a mistake or two will happen.

Still not buying it, eh? Then let me tell you a story. I finished a book a couple years ago. I queried that book. An agent requested a partial. Then he requested a full. I never spoke directly to the agent. I spoke to his assistant. See where I'm going? No you don't.

The agent eventually passed on the manuscript. Asked for a partial of my next one. I never spoke to him. I spoke to the assistant. Eventually passed on that one as well. Two full manuscripts, 260,000 original words, and I never spoke to the agent. I spoke to the assistant. Think what would have happened if I had been a dick on that first manuscript. You think he would have asked for a second?

Still not convinced? Well, a couple years later I get an email. Hey, Joe, remember me? I was the assistant for so-and-so who read your stuff. Of course I remember you. You are awesome! Thanks, well, I have a confession. Agent so-and-so wasn't reading your stuff. I was. Now I'm an agent in my own right. Do you have anything new to share?

Oh well yes I do.

Pause and ask yourself if I would have ever received that email if I had been a dick.3

All right. Go now, and try out these new manners. Remember that publishing is a small world and people who were once low can grow to be mighty (and can do so quickly). There are a nice batch of awesome agents that were only assistants when I started querying three years ago. It makes things fresh. It makes things exciting. As long as you don't screw it up at the beginning.

1 With the changing economy, the entry-level position is actually becoming the intern. The assistant is the intern that had the chops to keep going, so they have more experience than you'd think. They just don't get paid for it. :)

2 Don't ever think just because it's an entry-level position that it means they don't know anything. Those positions aren't just thrown out to anyone. They scratch the eyes out of the competition to get those jobs.

3 The answer is no. No I would not have received that email if I had been a dick. Neither would you. It doesn't matter how much of a genius you are.

May 18, 2012

Avengers Sevenfold

Like most geeks, I saw The Avengers opening weekend. Like many geeks, I saw it more than once. Yes, it was that good. I did not know if it was going to be good. I was hesitantly pessimistic, but after 99% glowing reviews from people I know (some of whom I actually trust), I gave it a try.

Pessimistic, I say? But how? It's superheroes. It's Joss Whedon! It's Marvel!

Exactly. Marvel has a good way of ignoring professionals who know movies and know how to make movies to do what they think the audience wants. Need examples from this decade (ignoring older disasters that are easy picking)? I give you Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2. Both had so much potential and both were wasted by Marvel demanding the directors do things their way, which proved not to be a very good way.

But Whedon is at the helm! This time will be different! Okay, A) the fact that he didn't leave/get fired from the project means he's playing nice, so don't think Marvel didn't have some say in the process (the alien invasion? all their doing). Moreover, is Joss as deserving of praise as we give him? I love his properties (especially Firefly), but they push the super-powered teen girl repeatedly. Can he do something like the Avengers without turning the Black Widow into Buffy?

Well, turns out, he can. Now, if you don't like Joss Whedon as a writer or filmmaker, then you won't like this movie. The dialogue is very clearly his. Yes, Stark, Cap, Banner, and Thor all have their own voices, but they are also expert witty banterers in that way Whedon excels at. I don't mind it. Some people do. It's a matter of preference.

The voice is what makes the movie worth watching, though. If you want to watch the big fightemup beatemup battle against the two-dimensional alien invaders, go watch a Transformers. If you want to watch what is perhaps the best rendition of Bruce Banner, then you have to go see Mark Ruffalo (who took my favorite character and made him the best he's ever been--even better than Bill Bixby! I'll go there). You have an ensemble cast of super-heroes that have no reason for being together that need to be together. It's a daunting task that had every reason to fail. It's master writing that made it even passable and Whedon made it awesome.

I never full drank his kool-aid (I don't think Firefly would have been the amazing show it was without Tim Minear), but this movie really won me over to just how talented he is. I hope I can excel in my own field in a similar fashion.

May 9, 2012

Ideas on Stuff

Two ideas that have been bouncing around my head that I wanted to write down.

I want to write a city whose nickname is the Ever-Blossoming City. Every time the monarch dies, the core of the city is torn down and rebuilt in a style dictated by the new monarch. In years of plague or political upheaval, this may actually mean buildings would be torn down before they were finished being constructed. How much of the city is torn down depends on how prosperous the crown is, so you may see a hodgepodge of disparate design styles, grids leading into crisscrosses and what not.

Also, I want to write a short story named HARVEST TIME that focuses on two characters, a royal steward and a ship captain that has recently returned with goods from a newly discovered continent. He gifts them to the monarch and among those gifts is corn. The monarch feasts on the corn at dinner. That night, the corn turns up in the monarch's chamber pot and it is decided that corn is actually poison and the ship captain has tried to assassinate the monarch. It is the steward's job to catch him (and depending on how it develops, may be the person who convinced others corn was poison) while the captain flees in an attempt to prove his innocence.

Really, I just want to write a story where the plot is predicated on the fact that corn is still solid when you poop it out. How does that not freak people out?