Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!

Why do things always, without exception, hurt worse than we think they will? And if this is the case, why don’t we learn to anticipate more? My apologies for blogging again about personal stuff instead of my usual (if you are reading this on facebook—go to the actual blog page at www.jschancellor.wordpress.com).

I recently quit my job, see Associated Content for an article entitled, “The Psychology of Job Loss,” and you’ll see that I need to take my own advice. But is that ever possible? If you can manage to figure out how, do tell. This was my first real week away from the job. I know that this will take time and that five years is a decent stint for someone my age, especially since it’s all I’ve known since college. Despite all of that, I feel like horse crap. Why? I don’t know—maybe something about feeling kicked off of a cliff; that I was running toward of my own volition. Friday was anti-climatic, which was to be expected considering that I was practically on my own as I closed up shop. But there was no goodbye, no screw you—nothing. I dropped my keys off in the drop slot Monday (no one even asked me for them), and there was something hollow and empty about that. There was no gathering for margaritas or farewell lunch, or even a good riddance card. I don’t know what I expected after five years. I don’t think I gave it any thought at all until I noticed how empty I was feeling. How empty I am feeling.

Bottom line is that it doesn’t matter in the end. I made my decision and I am married to it now. I don’t regret quitting. In fact, all of this has made me that much more pleased with my decision. I guess it just didn’t feel real until now. It’s been a rough week. My writing is going fine. Demand Studios pays on time for the record.

So, what have I learned from all of this? I’ve learned that you can’t place your worth on your job, unless you are working for yourself and doing what you can call a true passion. Find something you love to do and then find someone who will pay you for it. If you wouldn’t do it for nothing, then you’re in the wrong industry. Yeah—someone out there is saying that there needs to be garbage collectors and who would do that voluntarily? Truth is, I don’t know. All I know is that everyone out there has something that they excel at/in and our world would be a better place if all of us focused on our strengths instead of a paycheck. Again, I realize I’m being a bit idealistic. Aren’t I always?

I suppose what really bothers me is how little, the company I worked for, cared. Things in our economy are still rough, I get it, but don’t put me in a position to fail and then act like it was in everyone’s benefit that I decided on my own accord to leave. I functioned quite well for four and a half years before growing intensely miserable—for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was my inability to work in mass confusion and disorganization. This hurts because I left feeling totally incompetent and like I was a waste of air. I understand corporate America is cold—that it won’t coddle you and that career placement is cut throat. But the problem is, this company was supposed to be different.  This company was supposed to be family oriented and in reality, it’s just like any other property management company. Nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary and if average is all they are shooting for, then I wish them the best of luck. I have no doubt they’ll reach utter anonymity in the industry and moderate efficacy in employee retention, with startlingly little effort.  It’s a shame too, because they were so damn close to being more. It wouldn’t be tragic if they were light years from being exceptional. Employees who come first will keep their customers first. Employees who are treated as more than a means to financial gain will work harder for every dollar they make for themselves and for the company. Employees who are valued as human beings, with unique personalities and strengths, will purpose to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably come.

Have I burnt a bridge by posting this? I write under a pen name, so probably not, but honestly—I don’t care anymore. I hate to feel this way, but I won’t deny it. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

If there be dragons…

After fighting with a scene for three weeks, which included yelling at my keyboard, pulling at my hair and much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I’ve finally broken through the fog. How? I realized that it wasn’t the logistics of the scene that were hurting my ability to write it…it simply didn’t need to be written. I needed several main characters to encounter a, well, let’s say hardship, and instead of crafting a useful way for this to happen I was rushing through what turned out to be an extraordinary scene in the process. Let me be more specific; I hurried them through some rather fantastic scenery in order to be on solid ground and encounter said foe, and by doing so I was missing out on all that I was eventually able to do in the original setting.

All that gibberish to say that if a scene is giving you that much trouble, there are two reasons for it: It deals with something you personally aren’t ready to deal with, or it’s being forced. Check your motives. Does it sound like a plot device? Could your novel/short-story do without the whole scene? (This is good to ask for any scene you write).  There may be many parts of the story that you write only for yourself, because keep in mind that a reader only needs to read what will push the narrative forward. Now, that’s not to say that it will always be obvious how it does so. A scene/chapter may only be for character building purposes, but you have to be unbelievably careful in doing this, you stand the chance of losing your reader’s interest. In other words, yes you can learn alot about James Bond with internal dialogue while he’s on the John, but it won’t have near the staying power as hearing that internal dialogue while he is in captivity somewhere (where he will inevitably sleep with the enemy and blow something up…but I digress).

I learned alot through this…and I may have encountered this lesson before, but as I’ve already said, each novel is different. Every story has its own characteristics and everytime I begin a new chapter, its like beginning a new relationship. There is the courtship phase, the newly-wed phase, the seven year itch (please God don’t let this drag on anymore), and hopefully the blissfully comfortable familiarity of someone you’ve known all your life. There are basic guidelines and ideas for all novels/relationships, but not all of them apply to every piece.

All I want for Christmas is an agent

n50503723_30999745_267 Writers endure more judgment and criticism than perhaps any other art aside from music. Agents write blogs on the amount of drivel they read in the slush piles, ranting on how many of us they would like to bar from ever buying another laptop, or picking up another pen. Even when one of us has the good fortune to get published, reviews can cut right to the bone. Some of them are purposely written to make the reviewer seem more important than they really are.  So here is my question, does it matter, really? When you read rants from agents about ill-prepared authors or seemingly thin plot-lines and less than stellar characters, does it discourage you from writing?
There are times when it discourages me from submitting. Mostly, I chastise myself for wasting time on the Internet in the first place. But, there are times when the weight grows too heavy and it halts my ambition. That’s when any author needs to take a few days away from the phone and Internet, and recharge.
Receiving tons of rejection doesn’t mean your work is genuis waiting to be discovered, just as being placed on the shelves of Barnes and Noble doesn’t mean it has been. Trends in publishing wax and wane and the personal tastes of burnt out agents, editors and publishers only narrow down the slight venue that makes it to print. This, at the end of the day, means little in relation to your story.
I read a review from a website I am quite fond of, that felt harsh. I won’t go into which author or what book, but what I will say is that it felt like the reviewer wanted the author to follow certain formulas, map out characters in a very specific way and even went so far as to critisize the plot itself. Clearly, he didn’t care for the book…so why make the assumption that it needed to be changed? If you want it to be another book, perhaps you should just…read. another. book.
I don’t know, maybe I am too sensitive, but I hurt for her. She responded far more professionally than I might have been tempted to. She was applauded for accepting criticism so gracefully. I don’t do much of anything gracefully, let alone taking shots like that. I’ve never been accused of playing well with others. (Unless of course those ‘others’ happen to be my characters, that’s a little different)
So what say you? All this makes me want to be a recluse, not that I’m not already…am I alone here?

Enjoying the process, and the art of writing

Enjoy the process.  If you are destined to be a published writer, the months and years spent working on early manuscripts may be the last time you ever have the luxury of writing for the love of it at your own speed.  As soon as you sell, things like deadlines, the sales department’s mindless prejudices, the editor’s input, and so on become a part of your work.  You will, trust me on this, look back with nostalgia on the days when the only person you had to please was yourself. ”  Vivian Beck

I read this earlier, and appreciate her candor. She is a literary agent who spends a great amount of time giving good solid advice to writers. Why? Because she is an author. There is possibly no better person to have as an agent than one who knows what we go through. I’ve listed her page to the right, please go check it out. You’ll be glad that you did.

The Devil’s in the details…

I wrote in an earlier blog,
“We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinnings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.”

I ran across a link today that caught my attention. http://www.bmarch.atfreeweb.com/Worldbuilding.htm This is a really detailed list of links.

Another link is http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm Which happens to be my favorite.

I’ve heard it said that you can tell when someone is lying when they give too many details. The words sound false to them, so they try to make them believable with more of them. Like the classic rookie that calls out of the office, regaling his boss with all the glorious symptoms of a stomach flu…
As authors, we must resist this urge, just like any ordinary liar. We are, in a sense, professional fibbers. If we give too much away, the reader will know. What we must do is weave just enough to make it nearly tangible.

Woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses

M John Harrison: (On World Building)
Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.
Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.”

I read this earlier today, and had to share it with you. A keen observation, this is. Look at what he says closely. As a reader, it is our job (nay, our pleasure) to fill in some of the blanks. As writers it is our duty to allow all others the freedom to do so.
We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.

Madness ensues…

Nathan Bransford asked a really good question yesterday…What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? A myriad of responses flooded in, and much of it sounded like some of the stuff I’ve been told.  In stead of talking about what shouldn’t be done, I thought I would chat a moment about what should. Consider this quote concerning fads:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.” 
–Ray Bradbury 

How true. How startlingly, frustratingly true. I lightly considered, as I complained about the current trends, changing my next project…or I should say I considered shelving my next project and replacing it with something that would fit the market. To even contemplate setting aside something that warms my soul to make room for something that fills my wallet, is true defeat.

So, in light of such a humbling revelation, I suspect I will get quite a good ways into book four this weekend. Nothing like stark reality to get the ink flowing again…

The written word and all its worth…

I was reading through one of my favorite blogs this morning, sifting through the archive and found this little gem: http://literaryrejectionsondisplay.blogspot.com/2008/02/one-rejected-writers-manifesto-listen.html

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorites and I found this brief commentary powerful, heartbreaking and poignant. I also found it mildly entertaining. With my recent feelings about the state of things in the publishing world being so grim, and with consideration of how much crap is being praised as ‘fresh’ and ‘urban’, I smiled, drank more coffee and wondered how we let it get this far? Where did we give up literary value for shock factor, or merit for quick entertainment? Sure, I might get a kick for a day over reading some of the nameless drugstore drivel out there, but does it last? Do I find myself pondering over the characters or the worlds they populate, days later? Sadly, no.

It’s been quite a while since I read something truly fresh. My personal taste is for fantasy work, but literary and fantasy fiction are not mutually exclusive. But, I relent. I fear I am standing on a rotting soapbox here…

Some worlds never die

Some worlds will never die. Regardless of how many generations come and go, there are some places that once imagined, will never cease to be.

As a young girl, I read E. R. Eddison’s work, The Worm Ouroboros. It remained a part of my mind long after I had closed the book.
Gro answered and said, “I will not hide it from you, O my Lord the King, that in my sleep about the darkest hour a dream of the night came to my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that the hairs of my head stood up and pale terror gat hold upon me. And methought the dream smote up the roof above my bed, and the roof yawned to the naked air of the midnight, that laboured with fiery signs, and a bearded star travelling in the houseless dark. And I beheld the roof and the walls one gore of blood. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, crying, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And therewith the whole world seemed lighted in one flame, and with a shout I awoke sweating from the dream.”

Why is that one of my favorite passages from Ouroboros? I love the imagery. The visceral feel of the world in which Gro lives. It takes me, terrifyingly of course, to another existence. How much fiction have you read lately that can lay claim to that? So much pop fiction frustrates me. Is this a lost art? Is Epic Fantasy losing its readership to paranormal and urban fantasy? Some think so. Quite a bit has been said lately about the decline of book sales in the genre. Is this a passing trend? I personally think so. There is a really good discussion of it here http://aidanmoher.com/blog/?p=230#comment-2057
Epic stories are too much a part of our being. In a commercial, pragmatic world, its nice to fall into a realm that knows nothing of emails, or cell phones, or the wonderless existence of living in polluted, over-crowded cities.
Who hasn’t experienced loss that, even for a second, made you wish for the impossible? Even those who claim they don’t care for fantasy, are drawn to newstories that are seemingly incongruent with reality.
Our daily world is built on the foundation of immediate gratification. We are no more invested in imaginery worlds than we are our own. But, this mindset is relatively new. Like all things, it will change. We’ll find the lost art of letters, and face to face communication. Not to be archaic, but I like things that leave more than a page in your browser history. I am not alone.
So, no. I don’t think Epic Fantasy is dying. The publishing trend may be pulling things in a different direction, but as the pendulum swings it will return again. Some worlds will never die.

Really…how much coffee does it take?

I am on my third cup this morning. I also wonder why I can’t sleep at night. hmmm.
I suppose during this part of the process I should refrain from caffeine, but where is the fun in that? This brings to mind questions as to what things other writers find necessary for their craft. Where do you write your best? Are there any rituals you go through before beginning for the day?
For reasons even I cannot fathom, I like the scent of mistletoe year round. No, I’m not kidding.  I have two or three Yankee candles that are either said scent, or pumpkin spice, that I burn when I write. Coffee is another needful thing. I have a favorite place (lake cabin), though I can only go there on the weekend. My writing room at the house takes its place during the week. It seems too that I am at my best when its late. Darkness leads to less distractions, I suppose. Everyone is asleep, and the world outside of my door is quiet. I listen to music most of the time, only refraining when I am in the outline stage of a project.
What do I listen to? Musical scores mostly, and trailer music. (Movie previews, ass…not trailor park music. You should get out more often)
So what do you do? I realize this blog is scarcely read right now, but I have to start it somewhere.