Five Things I Am Into Right Now, February 2014

SteamengineWhen I started February I had steampunk dreams.

See, I have this book I had written a few years ago and I’ve been debating what to do with it. It’s not a bad book, I’m proud of it; it’s just I want to add a special flair to it. Something that would make it stand out more. So I considered the idea of adding some steampunk to it.

The book already had steam engines and hot air balloons, so adding more elements didn’t seem too difficult a concept. But the fact is the more I read and study steampunk the more I begin to wonder if this is too much an undertaking. Frankly, steampunk is like joining a literary masonic society with their own phrases, handshakes, words, etc. I really dig the vibe of it, but the last thing I want to do is fight the idea that I was writing a phony steampunk book or not embracing it enough. Jeepers! Writing a regency book in the voice of Jane Austen feels less intimidating if you can believe it.

Maybe I am just overwhelmed by it all right now and need to take a deep breath. Honestly, it’s hard to take on too many big ideas right now and I think it is the weather. I feel trapped and tired, and I think we all do by this nonstop snow and ice. You can see this in my five choices this month, because it is all about escape and comfort for me. Continue reading

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The Happy Bliss of Dentistry

The Happy ToothI have always had a thing about dentists.

It’s not a fear, more like a slight terror fueled by judgment and pain.  Let me break that down a little more.

Cavities hurt and I dislike pain so I naturally associate the pain with the person who works in the mouth. I know it is like blaming the mechanic for my car breaking down, but I do it.

The judgment? Well, sometimes I feel like dentists harshly evaluate me and how I am overseeing the management of my own mouth. Has anyone else noticed this? When they are telling you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong, doesn’t a part of you feel like you are being lectured? Now, I can’t point to a specific moment when a finger was wagged in my direction or eyes were rolled, but I sense it. I know it is there. The hidden eye roll is always there.

Because of all of this, I had been very relaxed on my visits over much of my adult life. And sadly, over the last five years this has come back to bite me in the ass… or mouth… or something. I’m just trying to say I hate my teeth right now and there is biting and occasional pain involved with it.  The biting, I mean. Argh! Continue reading

How to Walk the Equator on Planet Books

globeOn Friday night, with a few drinks and snacks nearby us, my wife and I were discussing the states of our artforms. (Yeah, this is what we do on weekend nights.) For my wife it is dance and she struggles between the world of dance you see on TV and the artistry and importance of modern dance (she writes a lot about this on her own blog- educatingdancers.com). For me, it is the state of writing and books.

My wife has heard these arguments before (and I love her more each time she doesn’t yawn) as I continue to wonder where my artform is going and why there seems to be such a thick and foreboding wall between the pop writing you see filling the stores and the more literary creations you see winning the acclaim.

See, for me it feels unnatural that some books are written solely for entertainment and others are considered more important, but can be an endeavor to read even for us educated readers. What many don’t know is that this line, this equator, wasn’t always around and there is a way to create novels that do both.

On this night, my wife laughed and said, “You know who you are? In your posts and on your site? All those articles about books and writing? You, hubby, are the Great Mediator.”

The Great Mediator? Yup, that’s me. And I guess that makes me the lamest member of the Justice League (I’m assuming my chest plate would be the image of a perfectly-balanced scale). I’ve also been probably known to say after a battle with bad guys, “Wait, dudes, let’s hear the Legion of Doom out on this one first before we jump to judgement.” I’m the action figure no kids wants to play with.

Whatever the case, as the world of books gets more and more fractured into different genres and accessibility, I want to bring everything back together.  Continue reading

Living With Giants: Growing Up and Older With They Might Be Giants

I’m a proud card carrying member of the lifetime fans of They Might Be Giants.

I own all of the albums, each collection, a box filled with B-sides, concert albums, and too many shirts to count spanning the last two-and-a-half decades. I even once bought a shirt of theirs to save! See, my dream was that one of the characters in a screenplay I had written would wear that shirt in one scene. So even though I didn’t have a producer, studio, director or even an actor for it, I wanted to have the shirt just in case.

I’ve seen They Might Be Giants five times in concert, and the best way I have found to describe the experience is to compare it to what (I assume) it is like to attend a meeting of the masons. You are with others that believe the same as you, know the same rites, know the same words, and instead of wearing creepy pinky rings we wear shirts with obscure references that no one but us really know…. And whenever I have met someone who already knows their albums, we immediately bond, our humor and artistic likes immediately snapping into alignment.

I was indoctrinated into the club of John Flansburgh and John Linnell (The geniuses behind They Might Be Giants) via a B-side of a single for Flood. I was in high school, and had to rely on one of my friends to get back and forth to school. And as we would drive each day, with our saxophones bumping against each other in the backseat, my esteemed driver would keep throwing in the same tape that had nothing more than four songs on it. Continue reading

Which Beatle am I? I have no idea anymore

I have always identified myself with The Beatles.  There was something about their energy, their creativity, and their artistic exploration that called to me.

I know this is not a unique thing.

Almost everyone feels some kind of connection to the fab four, but for me, I would mark my time based on theirs or I would relate myself to at least one of them from time to time, thinking something like “Wow that is just like John,” even though I knew it was never really the case… but it just made everything feel a little more important.

When I was a young struggling writer, I saw myself as a young John Lennon. I wore a sailor cap like he did all the time and wrote comic short stories. Yes, I connected to this early John in a major way.   I even dressed as him for Halloween once with the sailor cap just so over my bangs… strangely (thanks probably to my blonde hair) most thought I was the Dutch Boy from the paint cans as compared to the young rock god. Continue reading

Music and My Writing Brain

I first learned the power of music in my writing while I was an undergrad in college. At that time, I was working on a story and for some unexplained reason I had to listen to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (This happens, now and then I get taken over by a certain “sound”). Anyway, so there I was in a writing class (it might have been a writing table, I don’t remember which) and I started to read the story… And I began to notice that the meter in my words mirrored Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Yes, without realizing it, my character’s speech was actually set to music. I had to fight to control my giggles, now imagining my character on toes as he was speaking. I’m sure my reading began to seem ridiculous to the other writers there, but at that moment I knew I had a problem… and, of course, I knew I was going to have to rewrite the entire speech.

Well, since then I have figured out the potential impact music can have on my writing. While I have not let the cadence of a song take over a story again, certain artists and music became part of the creation process for me around different works.  Sometimes I use them to influence a mood I am hoping to create, sometimes they are just simply the soundtrack for the “world” I am “living” in. Here are five examples: Continue reading