Friday, April 30, 2010

Divergence Day

Hey, it's the last day of April. This year's moving by far too quickly already. Other cliches, murmurs, musings, ramblings, interpretive gesticulations, and grumbling about the nature of the passage of time.

With the end of the month comes another weird story. I'm trying to keep up with a story a month these days. So far, I think it's going alright.

At any rate, give the post title a click to go on a fantastical journey to the future! A future where things kind of suck. In the most profound way, no less.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coco's a No-Go? No No!

If you're reading this, it's obvious that you rely on this sparsely-updated blog for all your entertainment and pop culture news. All of it. In other news, there's nothing going on in the entertainment industry beyond the contents of this post. Just to be clear about this.

Getting to the point, it's been just over a couple of weeks now since it was announced that Conan will be making his return in November. Not on Fox as expected, and not even on a network. The internet was jarred by the revelation that Conan will be going to cable - specifically, to TBS. Nobody was expecting that. I've had a lot of mixed feelings about this decision - there's a lot of upsides and downsides - but having had a couple of weeks to process it now, at this point, I'm more excited to have a set time frame in which to look forward to Conan's return than anything else.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Onward to Fossilization!

So, I'm behind on blogging again with a few more posts in the pipeline on top of still brainstorming for my April short story on here. In the least, it's time for my usual yearly musings on aging. I was 22 when Spiral Reverie first launched, and today, I'm 26. Already old with more old piled on top. (Old!) Yes.

 Aging is always a time for reflection. The past two years, I've done a fair amount of reflection here around my birthday. I turned the spotlight in a rare moment of uber-narcissism. (As opposed to the regular kind I exhibit around here.) I turned discussion of my life into a manipulative Nike commercial using out-of-context audio to try to sell Tiger Woods as a brand - and in turn, Nike products.

Wait, maybe that's not it.

Regardless, another year has passed. I haven't accomplished anywhere near what I wanted to in the past year. A reoccurring theme: the annual disappointment. I'm keeping my sights to the clouds - there's nowhere else to be - while my body's still dragging on the ground like a sack of rocks and imagined orbital debris. If I flap my arms hard enough, I will fly someday. Metaphor works like that. (Who needs concrete reality?)

Still, I've done some things. I finished my first novel and am making decent progress on my second already, and I've at least done my homework and started the agent querying process off on the right foot. At least, on the right foot in the sense that while no one has responded to my queries yet, I actually made a point of educating myself so that I actually know what I'm doing here. A tremendous number of aspiring authors apparently don't bother doing their homework, figuring they've got such a work of staggering genius on their hands that chucking the manuscript at everybody they possibly can with a poorly thought out letter and tacked on ego would give them a sea of agents begging to represent them and millions in publishing deals in no time. I may live with my head in the clouds, but even I know better than this, actively trying to avoid ending up on one of those query fail blogs or tweets out there. I'd like to think that this gives me a bit of a leg up on a fair number of others seeking representation, at least.

And hey, if I'm lucky, I'll find the means to escape North Carolina sometime within the next couple of years. I'd rather not be stuck here into my thirties. We're obviously just a a few attempted militia uprisings and violent riots led by teabaggers from the collapse of civil society as is. (I really hope that there's no truth to this statement.) On which note, it wasn't until this year, in the face of all these conservative dissidents screeching out in the name of further squashing of the majority by the minority with the nation's wealth and power that I became really conscious of the fact that the Oklahoma City Bombing happened on my birthday back in 1995. It's the fifteenth anniversary of this ultra-conservative militant terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 168 people, including 19 children. Some on the absolute fringe see this as a day to be celebrated for the tragic anti-government violence carried out that day. The extreme of the "the government should cease to exist but somehow still provide me with everything that maintains civil society while corporate interests and oppression reign!" segment of society, of which the teabaggers largely just represent the old, overweight, white, wealthy, confused, angry, and racist. Whipped up by none other than Fox News, which should have seen a serious FCC crackdown some time ago that it has yet to - they've been cashing in on shouting fire in a crowded theater disguised as news and "opinion journalism" for well over a year now, completely violating their free speech rights. There's a limit to what's protected under free speech, and as things stand, the first amendment's being beaten to a bloody pulp by America's worst.

I guess, when you get down to it, the theme of my little aging-blurb this year is this: Hey, crazy people who don't understand how society works and somehow think the ultra-wealthy are victims of oppression by the lower classes. We're sliding into collective poverty as a nation while you guys scream about "socialism," ignoring decades of active redistribution of the nation's wealth upward to a tiny minority. Greed, selfishness, ignorance, and hate are cancers that threaten to take America to pieces from the inside and strike the rest of the globe with a serious crisis as a result. Let's use our hearts and minds and beat this, shall we? It's probably a hopeless plea, but one that should be made to the very end. In the least, let's not have any conservative terrorist commemorative violence on my birthday, shall we? Someday, a few people might know who I am and possibly even enjoy my characters and what I have to say through my writing. They might not be too happy if you ruined my birthday by killing people. And I wouldn't be too happy with that, either. There isn't a single one of us who can't do better than violence. Let's make my birthday a day to celebrate impermanence. (There's that narcissism.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Publishing Chronicles: Let's Try This Again

I don't even know what that potato thing was the other week. At any rate, I'm conveniently back now.

Time for a query process update. The agencies I queried back at the beginning of February asked those who submitted to them to wait 6-8 weeks for response, and the 8th week concluded just last week.

I wish I had news to cheerily report - even news of so much as acknowledgment through rejection, but alas, I do not. It could be that my letter needs some more work - I'm not even sure how I'd revise it at this point, but I may give that a shot if I don't get any response from this next set. It could be that the premise itself didn't sound interesting enough or particularly appeal to the two agents I started with. It could be that the first ten pages weren't enough to hook them. It could even be that they never finished the letter and tossed it quickly, or that they haven't even gotten to it yet. There's really any number of possible reasons, but the fact remains that the first query set's response waiting period is over.

It's disappointing that my first query efforts turned out this way, but then, being completely new to this part of the process and only having queried two agents to start with, going without response is probably to be expected. It would've been unrealistic to expect anything more. And it's probably unrealistic for me to expect anything out of these next four queries that I just sent out. But it's all part of the process. Going ignored, getting silently rejected, continuing to wait - these are undoubtedly important experiences to have as a writer.

No part of this process is easy, and it probably wouldn't be rewarding if any part was. It's time to press onward and now begin the waiting period for the second query set. After consulting a calendar, going by a regular 8-week or so waiting period, I should be able to get five or so sets of queries out this year. It'd be amazing to find representation within the year, but to assume I'll achieve that would be overconfident if not borderline hubristic. At this point, so much as a rejection response, some comments, or any kind of acknowledgment from an individual agent would be a victory of sorts. So in the least, while I wait, babble here, write short stories, work on my second novel, and enter more contests over the course of the year, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed on that much.

Before my third query set goes out in early June, I'm going to need to do some more research and find some more agents taking unsolicited queries who might be interested in the sort of thing I write. It can be hard to know who would give your work a shot, as a literary fiction writer. Crossing genres while not becoming genre fiction is a literary fiction staple, but it's hard to know what to think when agents express an interest in literary fiction and perhaps one or two of the following genres - fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries - but aren't interested in one or two of the others. Any kind of issues of preference could get something as complex and comparatively off the pigeonholed, beaten-path territory of genre fiction could sink a literary novel pitch. Literary fiction driven by some surrealistic elements of the fantastic is pretty much my thing, after all, with some mystery and science fiction elements in past and future projects. All of them are character-driven, however, keeping well within the realm of literary fiction at heart. I'm not exactly writing mainstream fiction, and I'm continuously trying to challenge myself to write stories that feel unusual and fresh - at least to me.

While my second novel that I'm currently working on - Project Princess - is probably more marketable than Project 27 Days, I have some concerns with how it would be received as well. Particularly over whether my eventual agent or a publisher might mistake it for fantasy genre fiction despite its focus being squarely on the characters rather than "the quest," a key divide between literary and fantasy genre fiction. In that way, it's not unlike how the Battlestar Galactica reimagining was written and largely treated as a character drama that happened to be set in space, and purposefully avoided numerous sci-fi cliches to be an edgy, fresh space opera that drew a lot of viewers who normally wouldn't go near a show like that.

I'm sure that narrative structure can be an alienating factor as well. Project 27 Days plays out as sort of a slice of life, taking the reader through the protagonist's thoughts, conversations, and experiences each day from dreaming to waking and struggling to sleep each night. I feel that it works well, as it was an important part of the novel's conception - that the reader have these full, day-to-day experiences with the protagonist. And I'm sure there's an audience out there that would appreciate it. Finding an agent willing to represent it - and me - and a publisher willing to back it, however, could possibly end up being a challenge. Project Princess has a somewhat more traditional structure as a novel, but "present action" chapters are also intercut by chapters of somewhat shorter length in which the protagonist discusses bits of the fantasy world's history, mythology, and the clash between history records and myths that makes it very difficult to determine which parts of their celebrated history are real and which are fiction. Though it's just conjecture on my part, I'm concerned that this could drive off as many people as it might draw in. It's part of my continued exploration of the concept of setting as character, which plays a major role in Project 27 Days through its surreal, small scale train setting. There's going to be at least some of that in my third novel down the line too - which is going to be much more of a comedy. (By which readers will continue to glean just how weird I am - as though everything else I write doesn't express that enough - and that I'm also a Judd Apatow fan.) Something to have some light, albeit crude fun with - still backed by my usual focus on strong literary character writing - as a bit of a mental and emotional palate cleanser. Project Princess is easily my darkest work to date with only a little humor here and there, so by the time I'm done with it, I'm going to need to write a comedy, and I've been working on this particular comedy novel conceptually since all the way back in autumn of 2004.

Getting back to the aforementioned note of contests, I also entered one of NPR's three-minute fiction contests back at the end of February. Competition's much stiffer when organizations like NPR are involved, and as you can imagine, I didn't win and probably didn't even come close to having my story deemed one of the notable entries. But as you know by now, dear readers, I'm kind of an eccentric writer to begin with. I may have gotten disqualified early on for some mild drug references, too - the protagonist of the story was a bit of a junkie, and there were a few references to his dealing. I can't say I'd be surprised if they were very sensitive about potentially broadcasting that sort of content, even if it was as mild as it was. You had to look at the picture they provided and write what came to you - the protagonist of this story just happened to be a junkie leading a fairly sad existence. It can't be helped if that's what sometimes comes out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Potatokins Checking In - This Internet Thing is Easy

Oh shit! It's Potatokins.

I know you can't stand it, internet people, but the number one potato man's here to drop some fury on you sorry humans. The loser who runs this blog thing - more like a bog, am I right? - wasn't too smart about his passwords and now his Google account is mine. (At least for the duration of this post.)

Some of you are confused right now - in fact, all of you are. That's okay. You're human. It's expected that you don't and won't understand anything. Your entire civilization is a failure but a few of you are probably just now starting to figure that out. It's too late.

There's no hope left for you, and some people might suggest that you turn to religion, but let's be honest. Yours are all made up. All you have left is to pray to the real god, almighty Potatoto - by which I mean me, Potatokins. (That's Mr. Potatokins to you, also - failure to address me with proper respect will only lead to oil-soaked rags and perhaps fire.) Of course, Potatoto - ME - is only interested in the affairs of potatoes and feels no sympathy or mercy for you fleshy sacks of sawdust.

Bip bip bip.
Bip bip bip.
The potato is it.
You're in awe of my rhymes. Rap is the only worthwhile thing you humans contributed to the universe - and potatoes are better at it than you are. Mostly Potatokins - ME - because there are no other sentient potatoes yet. And there probably doesn't need to be. Well adjusted potatoes might take the edge off.

AND THIS POTATO THINKS NOTHING OF ANY OF YOU. Gewurztraminer, The Flying Nun, penicillin, aerodynamics - none of these things are worth ANYTHING. I hope you understand by now how terrible all of you are.

Also, for some reason, you can follow me on Twitter now. TWEET TWEET TWEET, HUMANS. Potato words and potato knowledge are more valuable than anything your species could ever hope to produce.

And I rule this blog forever from now on. POTATOTOTOTOTOTOTOTO. You can't handle it. I've also got more eyes than you ever will.

You just got potatosmashed, entire internet.