Sunday, December 8, 2013

The black dog got me

Got me good.

Coming back fine now.  I was actually feeling a bit better last night.  Went out to run some errands.  What awaited me at the post office?  A rejection letter, like it was 1993 all over again.  The good news, I still rate personal rejection notes.  The bad news, they are rejection notes.

Many thanks for submitting "A Pawn's Life," but I'm going to pass on this one.  I like the characters here, but I've got one sorcerer's apprentice story in inventory at the moment and this take on a similar theme didn't quite win me over, alas.  Thanks anyway for sending this fantasy my way, and best luck to you with it.
That's a writer's life.  Mostly it sucks, except for the creative part, which is always fun.

Another little treat for me this evening, Bio is running a mini-marathon of Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed.  I love this series.  The first seasons of the show aired originally in 1997-1998, good years for me.  I was finding a lot of work as an adjunct professor, I sold several stories to magazines, and, most importantly, my dad was back in good health.  He had about three or four good years, from around 1997 to 2001. Those good years come back to me every time I watch this show.  In addition, I was fascinated by magic and magicians as a child, and even though we weren't well off when I was a child, I had a wonderful childhood.  They brought the show back for two years starting in 2008.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Friday, December 6, 2013

So much for that hare-brained scheme...

The little intellectual experiment I've engaged in over the last few days will bear no least no OBVIOUS fruit.  DC Comics doesn't accept submissions by any means fair or foul. You gotta show up at a fucking convention for one of their "talent searches."  I guess you know what I think about that.  I'll keep my hardboiled version of Bruce Wayne in the back of my mind at present.  Who knows what I'll do with it.

They certainly are appealing characters, up for many adventures...under other names.  Maybe.

Trying to think of new, unusual, and non-malignant ways to self-advertise.  Nothing yet, other than certain vague ideas in the back of my head.

I hear the black dog knocking. I'd better have a snack - keeping my blood sugar levels stable is part of chasing the dog away - plus, I need to put out a few bear traps for him if he gets inside.  If you don't know what I'm talking about and you suspect I may have flipped my lid, do a google on "black dog churchill" and you'll understand.

Night all.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I lost a story and yet more on Batman re-imagined

I say I've been a professional since 1989 - minus the many, many years I worked as a caregiver to my parents. I wasn't kidding. Going through an old hard drive, I found something I must have written on one of my DOS machines from way back. It's a CV for a possible job as a graduate teaching assistant. It lists a short story sale...fuck, I can barely remember the title, I can't remember selling it. I'd look through my old books, but hey, almost every one of them was destroyed in the tornado. I supposedly sold "Firmware Revolution" to an anthology called Future Tech Wars back in 1992. I can't find a copy of this story on my old hard drives and my physical story files were destroyed in - you guessed it - the Greensburg Tornado. I can remember writing a story with that title, but I don't have a clue as to what it was about. If anyone runs across this anthology, read my story and tell me what it's about. Thanks.

Just how do I have old hard drives?  The computers they were in were destroyed by the rain, motherboards are very sensitive to moisture, but the hard drives survived in the rubble.  I took a little of the insurance money and bought a couple backup drives and copied all the files over before the original ones failed.  My laptops did survive.  Their exteriors were banged up, but they booted and ran well for years.  I eventually gave them to a cousin.  They may still be running.  Toshiba laptops.  At least their 2003 laptops were sturdy.

 Back to Batman Improved.  The bad guys are there, though much altered from their more flamboyant origins.  Two Face's face isn't burned, he's called that by other drug dealers because he is so untrustworthy.  The Joker started out life in the comics as a gangster, so let him return to that, a Whitey Bolger of Gotham.  Even Superman's in this universe.  He's not a son of Krypton, he's a soldier-assassin used in covert ops by the government.  Shades of Marshal Law!  Poison Ivy has a big makeover.  She's the girlfriend of Alfy.  She's mostly harmless, except...well...she mostly destroyed her sanity through over-use of her own designer hallucinogens.  Alfy, Bats, and Catwoman have to rescue her from mental hospitals on a regular basis.  She also has a bad habit of "enlightening" nefarious local politicians and rich folk through the use of certain herbally-based psychoactive substances.  But mostly she's a good guy.  Think a kinder-gentler female version of Rorschach from Watchmen.  Gordon's still a good cop troubled by the political corruption in his city.  Bruce, Alfy, Selina, and Ivy make some of their money by running their own collection/repossession agency.  Other than that, they mostly prey upon the rich and the corrupt.  They've been known to pay off the car loans of poor people, especially after Catwoman and Batman steal a few Bentleys.

I'd love to write this, but just how could I do so?  I'd have lawyers crawling up my ass forever if I tried to sell it - and I'm not about to write fan fiction for free at this point in my life.  Sure, I wrote some fan fiction when I was caregiving, as a way to entertain myself and keep my mind alive, but now?  Nope.  Maybe I'll make it into a proposal and send it off to DC.  Who knows, they might like it.  Weirder things have happened.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


The one thing every writer must learn

I have many regrets in my life, especially in my college years.  Life would now be so much better, so much simpler, if I had made the right choices early on.  But my mom and dad had not a clue as to how to help.  He was a machinist, she was a grade school teacher.  Their advice about life was invaluable, but as far as writing or an academic career, they had nothing.

I should have known many things, but I was a kid, what the fuck did I know?  Someone in those first college years should have told me what I needed to know.  But no one did.  Shit, maybe even my professors didn't know enough to realize the things a kid needs to know.

First, don't assume your high school teachers were correct about anything.  My mother's extreme competence as a teacher made my juvenile mind think all teachers are that way - not hardly.  My life would have been much different than it is if I had known one thing: my idiot of a high school math teacher did not know enough math to actually teach it correctly.  I was taught algebra concepts that only existed inside her head.  It took me years to discover this and correct it, and by that time, well...part of what I should have been had passed me by.

Second, my creative writing and English composition instructors never told me the most important thing a writer can know.  What is it?  WRITE EVERY DAY.  That's it.  Keep writing, don't stop, and read as much as you can.  Those are the real secrets to being an author.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Can't think about revisions all the time! Back to Batman re-imagined.

I have to admit, my version of Batman resembles more closely a hardboiled crime novel than classic Batman.  Even Miller's Batman was an insufferable moralist.  I didn't say "fascist," which has been an accusation leveled both at the overall Batman mythos and specifically at Miller's Batman.  He isn't.  Classic Batman does share a few similarities with 1930s fascists, but there are also major dissimilarities.  He doesn't kill, for instance.  Though it may not look like it, Batman has sympathy for the devil.  He wants to reform him, cure him, not kill him. Things like genocide, forced sterilization, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of free speech - none of the fascist playbook is in him.  He uses a few of the "tools" of fascists, street violence, terror, vigilantism, but the core of fascist doctrine is absent.

Where does that take me in my re-imagining of Batman?  First, a little story about FDR.  He grew up in the progressive tradition of the Roosevelt household.  Teddy, the first progressive president, was a cousin.  But he was still a rich kid.  Teddy's sojourn out west tamed him of some of the nastier habits of mind the rich are prone to, but nothing like that happened to FDR...until the polio struck.  Several of his biographers credit his paralysis, the many hours spent in hospital wards and spas with fellow sufferers from the lower classes, as being the defining moments of his life.  After, he was different.  Nothing in Wayne's life compares.  "He lost his parents to violence!" you shout.  He was still rich after that, protected by his wealth, kept safe by it, humored by it.  What he does with his grief, his anger, he acts out a rich boy's fantasy of revenge.  He surrounds himself with fabulous martial toys in what is essentially the basement of his parents' house, cared for by a butler.  There is very little in classic Batman to suggest the mental transformation that took place in FDR's mind, Teddy's mind, or Thomas Garrett (Who? The action hero of the Underground Railroad.), or any number of people.  My favorite transformation took place inside the head of Stanley Hollis.  This kind man was a dispatch rider for the British Army in World War II.  Not especially interested in combat, I gather, until he stumbled across the bodies of French villagers massacred by Germans.  After seeing that, he became a hunter of men, one of the elite killers of military history.

Nothing like that happens to Batman.  He becomes a rich man playing at revenge.  So let's transform him.

As I said before, my Bats was orphaned when his parents were killed in a robbery attempt at their little mom & pop convenience store.  Bruce is sent into the unkind hands of foster care. To escape that, he joins the Army at seventeen and is sent to Afghanistan.  Alfred isn't an older guy in my version, he's a young SAS commando who saves Bruce's life.  After Bruce's enlistment is up, he heads over to London to camp out in Alfy's flat.  The two get up to a great deal of trouble, bar fights, women, booze - they end up working off the books for a repossession firm specializing in high-class merchandise.  Bruce and Alfy get into fights with British gangsters, drug dealers, financiers, members of the upper class, all in the line of duty, repossessing expensive cars, jewelry.  A very expensive repossession job takes them back to Gotham, Bruce's old home town.  During the attempt, Bruce meets Selina Kyle.

"What's with the cat costume?"

"I like costumes.  I like cats.  It's the perfect combination.  You don't like cats?"

"I like cats.  I like the women who like cats."

"You should wear a costume."

"Any suggestions?"

"You like the night..."

"'I am the night.'"

"Why not a bat?  It rhymes with cat."

Alfy likes Gotham.  Bruce likes Catwoman.  They decide to stay.  Many adventures ensue.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

The fun of formatting

That's what comes next, formatting the text file of Contravallation after I load it into Word.  There are some nifty little tricks using search and replace if you write in a text editor but edit for kindle publication in Word.  First, you can edit out the extra spaces by doing a global S&R for the number of spaces your text editor uses instead of tabs.  Next, if you learned typing old school, you'll need to edit out the extra space after the end of a sentence.  Same approach for that.

Second, set up the rough structure of the document: title page, copyright page, and table of contents.  You can add the bookmarks and hyperlinks later if you want, but it increases the speed of the task by adding them to the chapters as you go.

Third, begin pasting in the chapters.  This is straightforward.  It helps if you have the Windows shortcut keys memorized, like shift-ctrl-end, ctrl-a, ctrl-c, and ctrl v.  If you use dashes, you might want to replace the short (-) for the long em dash.  You can do so using S&R.

What your paragraphs look like depends a little on where you are publishing it.  Usually you want a short paragraph indent and justification.  I like the look of 1.2 spacing in finished kindle books.  Set up the chapter headings, then format the text.

Now, do that a bunch of times for a 190,000 word novel.

I might say that perhaps long novels as self-published kindle books may not be the best, at least for a short-term response from your readers.  Short novels might be the way to go.  We'll see how Causality and Contravallation do over the next six months.

That's all for tonight.

R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix about anything.


Not much tonight

I finished my "phase one" revisions of Contravallation.  I submitted a chapter from Suzie's Technical Support in a query letter to an agent. I played with the cat. I exercised.  I may work on a short story for a few minutes.  Then it's a midnight snack for me and bed.

More tomorrow.