Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You've Lost A Lot In These Waning Years

Hello Reader!  I was coursing back through time yesterday, staring my memories in the face.  As it were, I couldn't help but gloss over - alright I'm a liar, I didn't gloss over it, I outright pored over them - five years of my life spent with someone.

No, I wasn't in a relationship with the person.  Although, we were close enough for it.  And it's not appropriate to explain here why the friendship soured.  I feel it is enough to say that even the best of friendships have beneath them an undercurrent of...well, something far more sinister and darker than just friendship.

Is it really melodramatic for me to call it a betrayal?  I mean, for God's sake it's been three years since everything ended.  How am I still hung up on this issue?  Probably because I did many wrong, cruel things to that person in the dying shambles of the relationship.  My justification has been that worse, crueler things happened to me.  Not over the course of a year, but during that entire five year epoch of my tiny life.  That's good enough justification right?

Either way the issue is important, for this blog at least, because I want it in my book.  I think I've said somewhere that this novel is asking the question what if Paul Muad'dib had to go to high school and still lead the Fremen?  What if Harry Potter and Dune were to be mashed up, their storylines and character attitudes merged together?  But in a lot of ways, the teenage relationships between Harry and his friends are incredibly juvenile.  For one thing they don't curse.  Maybe British children are less foul-mouthed than American children, but seeing as how I'm an American I can't really avoid writing about what I know.

That's a minor thing though.  What irks me as I reread the Harry Potter series is the genuine goodness in each of the children.  It seems to be that all of the undesirable traits, or at least those that people absolutely everywhere absolutely cannot tolerate, are sequestered to Slytherin house.  For pity's sake, the worst thing anyone in any of the other houses ever does is uncleverly tease Harry.  Most of them, actually all of them, apologize to him after they've been proven wrong by our persevering hero.  Of course I understand that the novels are meant for children.  Why shove complexity down their throats?  Ravenclaw can have terrible human beings in it too?  Whoa, heavy man.  To be fair there's already enough new information, and the whole damn thing is presented so delightfully and with so much vivid and wondrous detail there's no reason for any more complexity in the relationships between these children.

But then again maybe there is.  High school isn't the sordid affair presented by many books, movies, television shows etc.  Often these media present to us a wasteland of common sense inhabited by cliques who are all mutually exclusive from each other.  This is a complete fallacy.  High school, or at least what I experienced high school as, was an ever shifting chaotic mess of children figuring out who they are in often harmful ways - to themselves and to others.  I had friends who did more hard drugs in high school than many of my college friends, who pride themselves on their lack of boundaries, even attempt.  Backstabbing in college is so much easier, because you're not clustered with the same 60 students everywhere you go for six hours straight.  There isn't much harmful gossip in college, because as fast as word travels at the university it is thousands of magnitudes slower than the drivel that's tossed around on a high school campus.

Again, as always, I'm speaking in generalities.  You can bombard me all you want with examples of gossip and backbiting behaving by rules diametrically opposite to those I've outlined above.  Fine.  I'm a generalist, I apologize, I hope you can learn to accept it as I've learned to accept the nitpicking.  Also, I could be totally wrong.  If I am, I'll admit it.  Now on with it.

Now, how does this vision of high school relate to the novel?  Well, I'm writing about high school students for most of the story.  In fact, the first novel's plot is driven by the high school aspirations, pratfalls, missteps and melodrama that follow my teenage characters.  In a lot of ways, high school is the very first step - or series of giant leaps - we all take in becoming less innocent.  I'm not just talking about sex or drugs, I'm talking about sins and diseases of the heart.  Some of us become arrogant in our ephemeral youth, believing the success and grandeur of our teenage years will last us until we're well into the throes of our death bed.  Some wayward souls dive headfirst into waters unknown and do not surface.  Ever.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Very Origins of My Story

Hello Reader!  I've always noted, rather proudly, that the story I'm blogging about, writing about, and have been thinking about since birth has no discernible origin in my memory.  But after rewatching bits and pieces of The Dark Crystal, I've come to realize there can be no other source of genesis for my story.  Which is odd because, while I am incredibly nostalgic about the movie, the storyline behind it irks me.

Basically a race of being on the planet Thra called UrSkeks came from another planet that severely looks down on moral impurities.  They plan on using a very large crystal, the same one that brought them to the planet Thra, and its ability to focus light from Thra's three suns in an attempt to purify themselves of their sins.  Well the event is called The Great Conjunction and the results are not what they expected.  They are split in two, a species called the Skeksies representing their unrestrained, evil sides and another species called the urRu (or Mystics).  I think it's quite obvious that the Mystics represented the disciplined, righteous side of the UrSkeks.

Anyways, the whole movie is about a young Gelfling who is prophesied to bring together the Mystics and Skeksies by finding the lost shard of the Dark Crystal - the same crystal that caused all this trouble in the first place - and rejoining it to the larger crystal in Skeksies territory.  Yeesh it's weird writing Skeksies.  The word is supposed to be the singular and plural form of the species, so I'm constantly feeling as if my syntax and grammar is totally off.

I digress however, because the main point of the story wasn't to introduce you to the plot of the movie.  As I've said above, the whole story irks me.  I'm not sure why.  For a Muppet film, the movie is very dark in its tone and the Skeksies are incredibly unforgiving, paranoid, ruthless villains.  Which is all very nice and good.  You never want villains that aren't scary.  But the story just irks me.

Maybe it's because I've finally found the Big Bang.  Or at least, the Big Bang of my story.  The Mags and the Howlas did not come from the same species of people - they have always been distinct.  But they do originate from the same planet.  And the first Magna Beast, as well as his counterpart the Howlamega, were each given their powers by a crystal.  Whoa, right?  I'm not positive as to when I watched this movie, but I am more than assured as of now that this film was the beginning.

Is that the cause of my annoyance?  I hope I'm not that arrogant, but I cannot lie and say that I wasn't proud of my story's lack of origin.  Fascination engulfed me.  I was enamored with the idea that this story was a germ that spontaneously erupted in the creative nether regions of my mind.  I wanted, so badly, to believe that this story was something more than just another conglomeration of past ideas.  I will still press on, no doubt.  Briok's tale is too far ingrained in my DNA now for me to not express it.  But an itching will constantly reside in my head, something that tells me, whispers to me that this wasn't my idea.

Of course one answer would be that I have thus far steered away from outright copying Jim Henson's work and made the UrSkek story my own.  But how did I steer away from it?  Every metastasization since has been easily attributed to something or another.  The fact that I had to create a purpose behind the story, a theme that resonated was due to Mr. Perkins my eighth grade english teacher.  The darkness of the characters, their deep melodramas and their superficial joys were inspired by Battlestar Galactica's intrepid character portrayals.  The restraint of my imagination in service of the reader hammered into me by my sophomore english teacher Mrs. Higgins.  The mafias, a monkey wrench in the plans of my main characters, were yanked straight from the reels of The Yakuza Papers.

No artist since the dawn of man has painted without another's color.  I justify myself thus.  Anyways, no point in crying over spilled milk.  Is that the phrase?  I've got what I've got.  It's made some people happy.  Hopefully it'll continue to do so.  I'll just keep writing, humbling myself with the knowledge that what I've been given I'll be giving back in a new way.  And hey, what I've been given isn't so bad.  Until next time then.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh Who Am I Kidding?

Hello Reader!  I failed.  Utterly.  I wasn't able to finish my NaNoWriMo challenge in time.  Sad face emoticon.  In my shame, this is all I want to post.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I was saving my 50th for something amazing

Hello Reader!  It's been fifty, 50, FIFTY, %)!!! weeks that I've been posting on here about my novel!  You'd think I would have finished by now.  But no, as always, school has taken over my life.  Thank God (swt) at least this year, I'm getting good grades.

Onto bigger and better things however!  Hopefully you've all heard of NaNoWriMo.  If not, then click the link!  Here's the gist of the organization.  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month - clever no?  Basically, participants are asked to type, write, sketch, doodle a 50,000 word novel in one month - the month of November - and whether the novel is good or not, post it onto their website.  No editing, no rethinking of ideas, none of the things that most authors rely on to make their novel great.  Just pure, raw, imaginative creativity.  It's exciting isn't it?  To be free from the hassle of analysis, self-doubt, judgment.

That's why I'm doing it.  I've been obsessing over the quality of the novel for so long, and I'm not sure if it's even boosting the quality of the damn thing.  In fact, I think it may be diluting the quality of it.  A nice break, one where I'm actually being productive on the side, would be nice.  Thus far, I haven't really written in it.  One chapter, a measly 10,000 words after deleting around 30,000, into the new version of the novel and Neuroscience has decided to make my life ten times harder than it already was.  First world problems are a bitch.

So what's the new story about?  I wanted to write something on an aircraft carrier, something detailing the life of a marine in deep space.  Yes, I'm sticking with science fiction.  I think I've already explained it beforehand, but it feels appropriate to reiterate my feelings about the genre.  I feel that science fiction allows me to create this alternate history through which I can influence my characters and give them context for their actions.  What's the point in making them do something, if the reason for it is so current, so present in their own realities?  Then it just seems fraudulent, like I'm letting you (the reader) see my hand at work.

Take for example a situation where Mary finds her new husband has been cheating on her.  She goes into a rage, and beats him to death with a frying pan.  Then she buries him under their garage and has to deal with his ghost haunting her for the rest of her life until finally she decides to kill herself.  Well, that sucks.

Now what if we knew that her husband had a history, a history of being a playboy and wantonly flirting with other women?  And that it took every fiber of Mary's being to get this man to settle down and be with her?  What if we also knew her own mother had a history of mental illness, one with symptoms similar to the hallucinations Mary seems to be having after her husband's death.  And then! it's revealed that the reason why she knew how and where to bury her husband's body, as well as how she knew to stay away from the cop's suspicion for so long, is because she comes from a family of gypsies living in the South  - that's a direct pull from The Riches, I know.

Doesn't that sound more exciting?  Hell, it's a longer paragraph, that's for sure!  So, science fiction gives me that leeway.  It allows me to write about characters who have depth beyond their own measly lives, giving them drama and connecting them to a larger play they are all a part of.  It's high falutin stuff, this explanation/reasoning of mine, hoity-toity to the max and border line arrogant, but at least it makes an interesting story.  Or what I hope is an interesting story.

SO, what exactly am I writing about.  I started off writing about a young marine in an engine room reading a bunch of maps.  Then alarms start to ring everywhere and a monster appears in front of him, crawling its way from a torture room it has just escaped from.  Then I began to write about something I knew would happen eventually.  I just didn't want it to happen now.

I began to tie the story in to the Magna Beast's story.  In the world I've created for the Magna Beast, there are six known sentient races.  The Mags and Howlas, the Quasarians, the Nymphs, Humans, Hyths, and...well shoot that's about it.  So I choose the Hyths to be a part of this story.  In my novel, the materials for the new technology allowing people to create laser guns is found on the Hyth planet.  So I decided that the Hyth our young marine meets is going to be the same Hyth who was found with his crew shipping those materials.

And thus, the mad chain of ragtag events zig-zag their way towards a final conclusion in the deus ex machina of my first novel.  It's sort of like The Hobbit.  Bilbo finds the ring, by accident, and, also by accident, ends up giving the ring to Frodo who embarks on this enormous journey to destroy all evil.  It's insane how one event, one instance in a person's life can drastically metastasize and affect forces larger than his/her understanding.  I love to play with that, events building upon each other to create a varied tapestry.

Anyways, I think I'm going to blog about my progress on this new novel.  It's an exciting journey to begin on.  And hey!  I think I did write something pretty watershed-like for my 50th post!  Here's to a new novel being finished quicker than the old one!  Huzzah!  Until next time then.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When You've Got So Much to Prove

Hello Reader!  I watched The Social Network this past Saturday.  Three weeks late, I know, but considering my schedule it's a wonder I even got around to watching it.  It's actually a miracle I'm even able to post this for everyone!  Anyways, Social Network was an incredible movie.  Truly gripping, in a sense used far less often than the word itself.  The script never faltered or lost itself, was always sure of its direction and never condescended to the viewer.  Dialogue was paced so that laymen would understand these were smart people dealing with sordidly normal insecurities, and really smart people would actually grin at the impressive knowledge exhibited by the scriptwriter.  It was freaking cool.

But back up a little bit to the first point about the dialogue.  These were incredibly smart people in the movie.  I'm talking about the characters.  Mark Zuckerberg brought down the INTERNET at Harvard while he was drunk, depressed over his break-up, and blogging.  What?  Eduardo Saverin made $300,000 in a summer.  A summer!  What'd you do with your summer?  I took summer school, made around $300 with my clerical job, and then dedicated the entire first two weeks of August to watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - the last two weeks were dedicated to finishing LOST.  These are kids in a very, very different league.

Unsurprisingly, they still have the same insecurities as anyone else.  And I love that this movie tackled that, while also celebrating the monumental achievement that is Facebook.  What really got me though, was the fact that Mark Zuckerberg never grew up.  I pitied him in the movie.  I didn't hate him or revile him, nor were any of his actions a mystery to me.  Is it because he was/is me?  Because I share the same manic desire to see everyone beneath my own feet?

No, I don't think so.  Everyone has that desire really, we all crave to be better than someone else.  Or something else.  It's a normal human function, something that allows us to improve ourselves.  We shouldn't be ashamed of it.  So long as we avoid hurting others in the process it's a noble character trait.  What really made me feel connected to Zuckerberg was that his need to prove himself was motivated by a girl.  This insane desire to scar the planet with his presence, to rip open his chest and let everyone see the goldmine that is his intellect was born from the common need to be better than others...but morphed into the ravenous want to show that girl he was worth it.

It happened to me my senior year of high school.  That's when things with this novel, and my life in general, started to pick up.  I wasn't dumped, because really we hadn't been dating.  I have no illusions about the relationship.  I had forced it into a kind of limbo because I was too afraid of breaking my promise to not date in high school.  But really, come on, you're going to go over and have "dinner" with a guy not once, not twice, but many times while still leading me on?  That just sucks dude.  Anyways, the whole thing blew up in my face.  I was overdramatic and paranoid, she was fed up and too scared to hurt my feelings.  *Sidenote: always be straightforward with a guy, please, because not wanting to hurt his feelings usually leads you to hurting his feelings moreso than you would've wanted in the first place.

This explosion however, propelled me into a fiercer, more focused state of mind.  I was president of three different clubs and juggling hundreds of chainsaws at once while spinning three different plates on my nose and balancing a couch on my chin as I unicycled up a hill.  It was stressful to say the least.  I reveled in it though, I reveled in the newfound popularity I had being at the center of three different, moderately popular clubs.  *Yearbook Editor-in-Chief (1/3), Mock Trial Senior Attorney (1/3), and Model U.N. President (1/2).

I was allowed to scar the school with my presence, winning Senior Boy at the end of the year and two prestigious scholarships - for a small town that is (is 80,000 people still considered a small town?).  I got to walk at the front of the class, have my face plastered all over my senior year yearbook, and was even asked to prom by a cheerleader.  Going from the kid who always got bullied in elementary school through junior high to the dude who everyone knew and getting asked by a cheerleader is a nerd's wet dream.  I got to live it.  I was ecstatic.  And a little bit of a douchey leader.  I attribute this latter trait to the fact that I was totally unprepared for such leadership roles and thought that because I asked for something it would immediately get done.  Of course, it did not.

Anyways!  I felt the same euphoric rush Zuckerberg must have felt, and did feel in the movie, once Facebook became the new fad then phenomenon then cultural mainstay.  Turning to my novel, my writing output burst during that epoch of sudden popularity.  I went from 150 pages double spaced to 315 pages 1.5 spaced.  I hadn't finished it necessarily, but I had created the skeleton of my novel while completely scraping away the previous version.  That previous version included an entire chapter dedicated to a flashback, a Mag fighting against a tank, and a freeway chase scene.  I had invisible Howlas, Amar entering Briok's mind, and a far lengthier first chapter.  I deleted everything and started anew after my sophomore Honors English teacher read the manuscript and was thoroughly unimpressed with my sporadic, spastic imaginative firings.

The idea for the mafias arose during my senior year, the idea that Briok would fall in love then when that love was broken turn into a horrendous shadow of his pure self, the fact that I wanted the two cities encapsulating the action of the first book to be characters in their own right were all developed during my senior year.  I can't help but think that my sudden confidence stemming from my sudden popularity spurred on this sudden metastasization of my novel.  It was such a high.  To be able to write and imagine like that, you cannot believe how good I felt.

Of course Zuckerberg became a haughty, manipulative creature willing to let anyone pour sweet, shining, poisonous honey down his ear while shunning those who had helped him rise to the top.  I could have become that guy, repelling all the old friends I had before this newfound popularity.  Did I?  I can never know for sure, because I don't know the opinions of every person I've ever met.  But I do know that I tried my best not to become that person.  I had peculiar insight into the rise of my social status as the phenomenon was occurring.  Not of my own accord of course.  All things must flow from the mother, and I'm telling you that lady definitely gave me more than a few gifts.  One of them was a particularly good intuition.  I can't really articulate it, but it's there, and it helps from time to time.  Other times it goes off the scale and confuses me to no end.

In this specific instance though, what was happening was as clear as day.  And I stood against the demons associated with becoming so popular.  But more than my intuition it was the fact that no matter what happened to me, I had a family at home ready and willing to love me no matter what that saved my ass from becoming an ass.  They were also ready to tell me whenever I did become an ass.  The movie wasn't clear, but I don't think Zuckerberg had this.  In fact, I'm positive his insecurities were allowed to run free and develop at such an exponential rate because he did not have anyone there to alleviate these self-doubts.  He didn't have anyone to hug him - interesting how something so small can do so much - and say, you've done well so far.  Be happy.

I am more than grateful.  I am indebted to my family.  Sure, I went on a couple power trips.  But I was well-balanced enough to say sorry afterwards.  I still wanted to tear away from my corporeal body and show everyone what I could still become, i.e. publish my novel.  As a child walking through the junior high towards my next class I used to daydream a Howla would suddenly appear out of nowhere and I would have to fight the thing in order to save everyone.  I would be lauded as a hero and everyone would adore me.  In elementary school it was worse.  I imagined the Magna Beast would literally tear away from my skin and I would become him.  I would then disappear and go off on my own adventures, people mourning my passing but lauding my renewal.  These daydreams haven't stopped.  I still sometimes imagine myself becoming more than what my body allows, especially when I screw up in a social situation (read: awkward date).

Unlike Zuckerberg though, these daydreams have not conquered my real life.  The family unit I grew up in did more than raise me, it saved me.  Because of their calming influence, loving embrace and stern discipline I stayed grounded in the real world.  The Magna Beast never took over my life.  I fear sometimes that this is what is holding my novel back.  That I didn't just up and quit school to dedicate myself to writing this novel still prolongs my waking hours, despite the fact that I crawl into bed most nights at two in the morning.  Comfort only comes from this one, menial thought: I've always accomplished the same things as others by taking a different path.  I've been preternaturally good, not of my own accord, at seeing opportunities and running with them.  I'm a lucky bastard, very little if anything at all ever resulting in my life due to my own skill.

I'm going to continue living my life the way I am, befriending new people enamored with the confident, popular, smiling Muslim man while also staying friends with those who knew and know me as the little boy who got pushed into the girl's bathroom, called Osama's cousin, and believed that being stupid was the only way to be accepted.  This dualism is tough.  Completely accepting that popularity as a part of my character runs the risk of becoming an asshole.  Completely rejecting it runs the risk of becoming a depressive.  But I was raised right...enough to deal with this problem anyways.

The Magna Beast, his roaring resounding in my head from the moment I wake up till the moment I sleep - and even then ruminations of life on Atlantis still stampede in my muddled dreams - will forever be my life's goal and if ever accomplished my life's greatest achievement.  But I'm grounded enough to say that just being a good person in general ranks pretty high up too.  I am no Zuckerberg.  Until next time then.

Monday, October 04, 2010

You Are Who You Are Because You Say Who You Are

Hello Reader!  My titles as of late have been random brain spasms, replacing the well-thought out titles I develop in my head over the weekend.  I think they sound cool, what do you think?  Anyways, this week's title does mean something (as I hope you've noticed all of them do).  Several times this past month or so, people friends have told me I'm one thing...and then quickly find out I'm another.  Psychoanalysis this is not.  I'm actually going to relate this to the ongoing legend of my work in progress.  Ready, set, go.

There's a dualism to my work, something I've been trying to escape for a while now.  Science fiction is where I start the novel.  In fact, it's where most of this story takes place.  Not because I'm asking questions about what will happen when a certain technology is invented.  Or because I'm pondering the mysteries attached to the "oncoming" technological singularity.  I use science fiction as an excuse to create my own history, giving each of the character's actions weight and definition amongst a rich, vibrant context.

Just one example of how the book is one thing...but really another.  Relate it to me?  Most of my friends think I'm an extrovert.  Not true, and never will it be true.  I need time alone - lots of it - in order to recharge my batteries and be the exuberant man I am.  Or they seem to think I'm a superficial asshole, only capable of making jokes and mocking folks.  (Whoa, that was weird).  Are these two blogs not proof that I have insecurities abounding, most of which are self-inflicted and remnants of elementary school fears?

Obviously not.  I am who I am because I say who I am.  And I don't act like the worried sap that I actually am.  What do I do about this?  I could paint my eyes black and buy a new wardrobe.  Or I could continue on the way I'm going, spilling the abstract Dadaism of my soul onto the canvas that is this book.  Its dualism is a reflection of my own, its indifference to traditional genre boundaries not only a product of my sloppy writing but also my frenetic, rapid-fire brain.

Really, there wasn't a point to this.  Any of it.  I'm stalling because I've got massive writer's block.  I've literally run into a huge hole in my story.  Or rather, I'm trying to fill a hole that I've created and it's killing me slowly.  I wanted to lengthen the book, make it feel more like the epic that it is in my mind.  Maybe I'm just being too rigid?  Certain events that are occurring later on in the story...could happen now?  There isn't a timeline etched in stone is there?  Not really.  Or I could expand to ridiculous lengths the storyline of the mafia.  I mean, there's a rich tale to be told there.  Or introduce the Mahabura earlier? Or even give readers a bigger slice of the Atlantian lifestyle through a teenagers' eyes?

Dadaism of the rapid-fire brain.  I'm telling you, I'm a frenetic mess of ideas and babbling incoherence ready to burst at the seams.  Hmm, maybe my personality isn't so far off from what others say after all?  You become who you are because you say who you are.  Much better title.  Until next time then.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I was Once a Man on Fire

Hello Reader!  So I used to believe that in order to write well, I had to be in a state of emotional disarray.  My feelings had to be hurt in order to put down on paper the story I wish to tell.  Then, my mind changed and I was pretty positive that all you need is focus and a clear heading.  Questions like how much pain am I in and how best do I deal with this new heartbreak were replaced with how many times should Amar smile or grimace and in which chapter should I deal with the mafia?

Well, that's changed again.  No, I'm not going to detail how that's changed.  Too personal for a blog entry.  But I will try to detail what changed.  I think, and this is just conjecture based on opinion based on random spasms of thought, I think that in order to write well you must have experienced some kind of pain or trauma.  From there on out, every time you write you should be able to access that well of pain and trauma.  This in order for the emotionality and presence of your characters to be authentic and clear, without the murkiness that overthinking or condescension can bring.

What does that mean in laymen's terms?  It means I have to reach deep into the pit of pain where I've buried all of my past misdeeds and heartbreak, so that when I detail the decaying relationship between Tory Cross and his brother my writing won't devolve into a series of arguments.  Rather, tense moments will punctuate the superficial niceties that exist between all warring siblings.  At least, that's what I feel is authentic.  Comment, critique, suggest me about it in the comments below.

Seems foolproof doesn't it?  I don't have to be in a constant state of self-hate or self-pity, and I can still write well!  But if I keep reaching into that wellspring where I've buried every harm done by and to me, won't I risk something?  My soul, sanity, whatever?  We've all seen it happen.  How many authors kill themselves, or become dependent on some kind of drug?  I'm not even talking about Hemingway or Hunter S. Thompson.  I'm talking about normal folks who get fed up with their lives, express it in writing, then let their brains fade away into oblivion.

I don't want to be a vegetable!  I have my whole life to live, and I'm generally a happy person!  Or am I being a little too melodramatic?  I mean come on, I'm 20 years old, how many traumatic experiences could I have?  Right?  Totally...anyways the book itself is supposed to be a mode of catharsis for me.  I don't want it to bring me down.  Hell, maybe this style of writing - reaching into the pit of past experiences to drudge up authentic emotions, may not actually bring me to my knees.

I'm at the point where I don't want to self-analyze anymore.  Being the son of a therapist has given quite a bit of intuition.  I thank you everyday for that Mom.  But power of psychoanalysis are meant only for Degrassi teenagers.  I try my best to stay away from that.  Who knows what this new tool for authenticity will do for me.  Will it even work?  I gotta go figure that out myself.  Enough talking about it.  Just do it.

Look to your left.  Maybe scroll up a little.  Actually, scroll up to the top.  Keep looking to your left.  See the box labeled Pages?  I've removed one of the Pages that was there before - List of Chapters - and replaced it with a new one: Links to Excerpts.  The new Page is exactly what the title says it is.  A link to all of the Excerpts I've posted on this blog from my current novel: Dramatis Personae.  Please comment, critique, and suggest as you read the excerpts - if you read them - and don't be afraid of harsh criticism.  Until next time then.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burning with Desire

 Hello Reader!  Did I post last week?  I'm not sure either.  Everything has been a whirlwind since I started training to become an RA.  It's good though, I enjoy it.  I've made incredible friends and forged a pretty solid working relationship with my co-RA.  In case you don't know what an RA is, it's a resident assistant. I'm tasked with making sure a community of students on my floor doesn't hurt each other or themselves and has a great time during college.  Seeing as how I live at the home of the Bruins, the floor I'm an RA of has 100 plus students.  Gasp, I know.  Anyways, it's been fun and I'm incredibly excited for the new year.

To start things off right, I feel like I should post an excerpt from a piece I just wrote in the novel.  I'm almost done finishing it off (i.e. being a perfectionist) and I want to share another moment with the mafia.  Here, Tory Cross is meeting with General Gakin in an art museum.  The two are discussing Tory's recent discovery of Gakin's betrayal, a business transaction gone wrong.  As always comment, critique, suggest please.  I hope it's up to snuff!  Click the link below, the text is after the jump!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Franzen & Fantasy

Hello Reader!  I recently began reading Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, a 2001 novel that has been called by numerous critics and readers "the best novel of the millenium's first decade".  Heavy stuff right?  Definitely.  The novel deals with consumer-driven America and a very broken, very dysfunctional family's attempt at having one last Christmas together.  It gives the reader a rather cruel, incredibly stark, and unapologetically brutal depiction of this family's faults and worries, each imperfection clearly outlined without the slightest hint of empathy.

Which doesn't make it bad.  In fact, Franzen's objectivity in writing is masterful.  Most other authors would feel the need to inject some sentimentality in order to lure the reader into a false sense of pity.  Not Franzen.  He relies only on his prose and the events of these characters' lives.  And his writing is absolutely brilliant.  Metaphors are created without relying on default images.  He uses a Nordstrom bag filled with old letters to describe an old woman's paranoia and frailty.  Details are thrown at the reader without hesitation, as if Franzen has a secret well full of them.  It's amazing how much the guy has made up in his own head so his story will work.

But I don't like the book.  I just can't wrap my head around it.  It's engaging, only because the writing is a river of discontent and malformed values that I can't help but follow.  The events of the novel I could do without.  I don't want to read about how a disgraced college professor fulfills his lust for a former student by masturbating on his comfy leather chaise, and in the next few paragraphs learn that that college professor's Parkinson's-rattled father is sitting on the same leather chaise eating hors d'oeuvre.

It's level of detail is disgustingly magnified and, in a way, kind of arrogant.  The entire writing style reminds me of a bemused parent watching over a struggling child, one of those kids who valiantly attempts to stuff the triangle piece in the circle hole.  Franzen has stated before that the entire novel was a memorialization of the Midwest...but is that from the perspective of a guy who was educated at Swarthmore and lives on the Upper East Side of New York?

His apparent arrogance aside, I think I'm just biased against books like this.  There isn't really a redeeming factor about any of these characters.  Even the father, who has dementia, is given the same brutal treatment.  And while that does say something about the American character, I need heroes in my novels.  Therein lies my beef with literary fiction.

The subset of fiction has, in my ill-educated opinion, become a medium of retreat for the incredibly well-educated authors of America.  For no better reason than "they can" are their books esoteric in nature and highly specialized for a specific group of people: those who have enough time in the day to read. These people don't have to work nine hour days then return to a hectic home where they must clean the house, their kids, make dinner or buy it, and then attempt to catch up on the extra work they've accumulated because they couldn't get it done at the office two hours away, three with traffic.

No, the people that avidly read Franzen, or Foer or Chabon, come back from work with their house sparkling and their children tucked away.  They read at night before they go to bed because they had been lounging beforehand and need a good way to ease into their dreams.  Novels that they read are filled with the moans and groans of first world problems, setbacks self-inflicted and relationships devoured by our own greed for more.  Most people aren't like that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Ode to Anime

Hello Reader!  Last week I posted the third revision of my query letter.  I'm going with it.  Criticism has been lukewarm, and while I will take each critique into account I am going to use that summary for my letter.  Hopefully, this next round of query letters will work better for me.  Then again, I have to finish up the manuscript first.

I've essentially reorganized my entire novel.  Gone is the eleven chapter restriction - now it's been replaced by a twelve chapter restriction.  Where before there wasn't a first or second act, now there are four.  These four acts mirror the composition of Volume 1.  There is an exposition, a rising action, a climax, and a denouement.  I'm hoping my ever unsatisfied imagination will finally shut up after this manuscript because I dearly want to get back into the mode of selling my novel, rather than working on it.

Anyways, I wanted to discuss something a friend of mine brought up in an email.  I have a penchant for talking about set jaws.  I do not disagree.  I absolutely love the image of a set jaw in the face of adversity, of stoicism when fear would be the first emotion.  And I get this image from anime.  Every time an anime protagonist faces his foes, before the battle begins he clenches his jaw.  Then, he rages into battle.  It's an amazing image, a lasting one that's been burned into my brain.

And I want that image for my characters.  I've always considered Volume 1: The Proxy Wars as an ode to Japanese anime and film.  The mafias I've included in the novel are yakuza style families, built on a rigid honor code that uses existing cultural mainstays in their own rules and regulations.  The heroes keep their promises, even if that means doing completely ludicrous things in order to fulfill them.

Another thing that strikes me about anime is the absolutely insane character development.  Granted, the development isn't very deep.  But almost every single character in the pantheon of characters in any anime gets a backstory.  These backstories usually involve a traumatic event occurring, or a parent dying, or a village being burned.  Nonetheless, they get a story!  How often do you see that in Western television?  LOST seems to be the only mainstream, popular TV show in recent memory to have attempted giving each character a backstory (Battlestar Galactica also did this, but mainstream it was not).  LOST even one-upped anime, and gave each character a future story.  Then in Season 6 the creators one-upped themselves and gave each character a sideways story!

What I'm getting at is that I'm learning.  I'm learning from shows like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, or Cowboy Bebop.  Even LOST.  No, no, I'm not trying to emulate the ludicrous plots and constant yelling.  Or the unnecessary powering up that lasts a good three episodes.  No, I'm talking about the deep stuff.  Anime heroes stand for their principles, they never surrender them.  Anime heroes confront, whether it's foolhardy or not, their enemies head-on.  If they are going to hide, they hide in plain sight.  And the friendships!  Oh God, the friendships they develop over the course of a series!  These things are the kind of friendships kids dream of, the kind of group where each person specializes in something and is appreciated for it.

In the end though, I've always hewn close to realism.  Or at least, as much realism as I can get when talking about a guy who can control the elements and has to fight a person called the Howlamega.  Where can realism come from though, when I also hew close to anime stereotypes about stoicism and honor?

By turning them on their head.  Anime characters love making promises and doing anything in their power to keep them.  In real life, people do the exact same thing.  And often break these promises.  Sure, I can have my characters approach every dangerous situation with a strong chin and set jaw.  But each time they get punished for standing up and fighting, instead of running.  Each time they protect, they are whittled down to their barest self and left to rot.  That is real.  Rewards are not often given for the courageous, the bold and mighty.  In fact, rewards are so rarely given that falling into a prolonged lapse of hedonism would seem best for our heroes.

And that's why they are our heroes.  Because despite the realistic retribution for their actions, they persevere.  They eschew all temptation and continue to keep their promises, protect their friends, and face their problems with a straight back and unwavering determination.  That's high drama right there.  That's entertaining.  And most of all, it says something.  Until next time then.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Query Letter Week 3

Hello Reader!  The summer's been hot, so I've been staying inside reading and writing.  I recently finished Dave Eggers' book Zeitoun which is a fascinating nonfiction account of a Muslim family's struggle to stay together despite the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.  I just want to make a quick comment about the book before I begin the meat of the blog.

It was really refreshing to read a normal story for once, one where there wasn't really a lofty purpose.  A lot of the time I catch myself getting absorbed into stories that are grandiose, springboards for the author to comment on the human condition or some other hoity-toity subject.  (Yes, I know that's what I want to do to, bear with me for a second).  I liked reading a story with a normal family, dealing with circumstances that were indeed extraordinary, but not to the point where existentialist arguments about existence became the theme.  I hope that in reading the next book on my to-do list (Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections) I'll be able to dilute some of the work of these two brilliant authors into my own.  Creating a fantastical world grounded in realistic engagement between characters is my goal for this novel and the ones to come.  Maybe I can learn from Eggers and Franzen how to do that properly.

Now, onto the real reason I wrote this blogpost.  Here's the consolidation of all of your suggestions and a few of my own revisions.  I hope you guys like it, and as always please be frank and honest with your critiques.  I always appreciate them, and they've been really constructive so far!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

On the island country of Atlantis, Prince Briok Cwartel is born into an era of uneasy peace.  With an absent father and a mother possessed of an iron-will, Briok grows to become petulant, brave, and ambitious. Then, on the day of his father’s funeral, the immortal Amar tells him that he is the final Magna Beast, heir to the throne of the alien Mags.

Quickly educated on the holy wars between the righteous Mags and genocidal Howlas, Briok is tasked with killing the Howlamega, savage leader of the Howlas and murderer of Briok’s father.  Because of his young age Briok’s quest does not take him far from Atlantis’ clear azure shores, forcing him to deal with the dual pressures of history assignments and Lara Heken’s sweet smile while training for premeditated violence.

Standing in the way of his success is a growing mafia civil war, led by the arrogant Tory Cross.  Power-hungry and grief-stricken at the deaths of his brother and nephew, Tory uses newfound technology to threaten Atlantis’ well-ordered society and Briok's life.  With the mafia on one side and Briok’s petulant nature on the other, Amar decides to enact a desperate battleplan that blurs the line between good and evil – and just may let him die.

Until next time then.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Query Letter Week 2

Hello Reader!  I'm going to continue from last week in posting possible query letters for all of you to critique!  After getting a few comments back (thanks so much!) I've adjusted my query letter accordingly, and even came up with a completely different one.  Try all three on for size, and tell me what you think!  If you would like to go back and see the other query letters, please click here.  You can also view last week's post here.  Enjoy!  Please comment, critique and suggest!

Query 1:
On the island country of Atlantis, Prince Briok Adam Cwornas Cwartel is born into an era of uneasy peace.  With an absent father and a mother possessed of an iron-will, Briok grows to become petulant, brave, and ambitious. Then on the day of his father’s funeral the immortal Amar tells him that he is the final Magna Beast, heir to the throne of Mags and Prophet to an alien people. With new rumblings in the perpetual war between Mags and Howlas, Amar must quickly train his young charge to murder the enemy before the reaper shows its face.

Standing in the way is a growing mafia civil war, led by the arrogant Tory Cross against his former mentor Howard Crim.  Blaming Howard for the deaths of his brother and nephew, Tory uses newfound technology to conquer his enemies.  His mad rage threatens to bring down the well-ordered society of Atlantis Amar helped create. In order to keep Briok safe Amar enacts a dangerous battleplan that blurs the line between what is right and what is wrong.

Query 2:
On the day of his father's funeral, Briok Cwartel learns that he is the final heir to the throne of the Mags--one of two races that invaded the planet Earth over a millennium ago.  Along with the title of Magna Beast, he is tasked with the murder of the King of Howlas, the Howlamega.  Only a young man at the birth of his journey, Briok's life is threatened by a growing mafia civil war.  Led by the arrogant Tory Cross against his former mentor Howard Crim, the war not only could kill Briok, but also bring down the well-ordered society of Atlantis.
Possessed with a desperate need to die, the immortal Amar is mentor to the half-human, half-Mag Briok's as he becomes the Magna Beast following his father's death.  With Tory's rage over the death of his both his brother and his nephew threatening to destroy everything, Amar enacts a battle plan that blurs the line between good and evil.

Query 3: 
It is the year 3096, and the scene is Atlantis’ clear azure shore.  Fourteen-year-old Briok Cwartel is running from the wanton brutality of the Howla mafia, screaming for help.  Refuge arrives in the form of Eli the Mad, a Mag warrior gifted in the art of murder.  His skill and brutality save Briok from the yawning maw of death.  Taken to safety, Prince Briok Adam Cwornas Cwartel is told by his dead father’s advisor, the immortal Amar, that he is the Magna Beast, King of the alien Mags and Prophet to their people.

Quickly educated on the holy wars of the Mags and Howlas, Briok is told that he must confront and kill the Howlamega, savage leader of the Howlas and murderer of Briok’s father.  His quest does not take him far however, forcing him to deal with the dual pressures of history essays and Lara Heken’s grey eyes while training for premeditated violence.  Along the way Briok’s life, and that of Atlantis’ well-ordered society, is threatened by a growing and violent mafia civil war.  With the mafia on one side and Briok’s petulant nature on the other, Amar decides to enact a battleplan that blurs the line between good and evil – and just may let him die.

There they are!  Again, please tell me if they grab your interest.  Or do they just sound too ridiculous?  Also, let me leave you with this link.  It's an article from the Daily Beast which outlines the 15 most underrated authors of today.  I'll post about it next week, but please tell me what you think!  Until next time then!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Today's My 40th

Hello Reader!  Today's the 40th blogpost!  My absolute sincerest gratitude goes out to anyone and everyone who's reading this.  Honestly.  It's really really incredibly...gah, I'll say it fulfilling to know there are people who actually dig what I have to say.  I'm not one to linger on sappy emotions, so let's get right into the post.

I've posted my query letter three times before now, each time with slight modifications.  I hope this one I post will be better!  Please comment, critique, and suggest in the comments section below (or in an email if you feel the need).  I appreciate any and all feedback, but especially negative feedback.  That's the only way you can grow right?  Maybe, or I'm just masochistic.  We'll see.

Anyways, here it is.

In the year 2015, the Mags and the Howlas brought their unending holy war to the planet Earth in a blaze of fire.  A millennium later and Briok Cwartel is born into an era of uneasy peace as final heir to the throne of Mags - the last Magna Beast.  The immortal Amar, possessed with a desperate need to die, guides Briok’s journey as half-human, half-Mag after his father’s death.  With new rumblings in the perpetual war between Mags and Howlas, Amar must train Briok to kill the enemy before the reaper shows its face.

Standing in the way is an enormous mafia civil war, led by the arrogant Tory Cross against his former mentor Howard Crim.  After the death of his brother and nephew Tory uses his position as “largest Howlian boss east of Atlantia” to bring fire upon Howard’s doorstep.  His mad rage threatens to kill Briok at the birth of his journey, and bring down the well-ordered society of Atlantis.  With a host of enemies bearing down upon him, Amar enacts a battleplan that could prove to be his ruin, and his salvation.

My debut novel The Proxy Wars: Dramatis Personaeis a blend of science-fiction fantasy and at 102,000 words mixes world building with raw emotion to paint the portrait of a realistic future.

Again, please comment, critique, and suggest!  Does this delineation of the plot grab your interest?  Does it excite you for what's to come?  Or does it bog you down with too much information?  Do the events throw you off and strike you as silly?  I look forward to your comments!  Until next time then.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smells Like Regret

Hello Reader!  As you know, I'm prone to writing these blogs in response to a movie, book, or tv show that has recently inspired me.  Seeing as how Inception is just such an inspiration, on a scale whose magnitude I cannot readily comprehend, one would think I would immediately blog my heart out about it.  I won't however, keeping in character as the contrarian I pathetically try to be.

What I'm going to write about today is regret.  It's such a powerful emotion state of being that is incorporated in almost every hero's tale.  Why though?  Why is regret such a necessary part of a hero's character?  From Odysseus on up to Batman regret can drive, haunt, stop and burden the heroes we want to see as stoic paragons.  There is an ethereal (I use that word deliberately) attraction we, as the audience, have to heroes filled with regret.

You could blame this all on the Judeo-Christian philosophy of original sin.  That would be easy, and because the idea is so widespread we've got a blanket reasoning behind the ubiquity.  But that's not good enough.  Where's the explanation then for Odysseus, or Oedipus, for Achilles, for the Shanahmeh? Western literature may be rife with heroes who run towards martyrdom with regret biting at their heels because Adam screwed up at the beginning.  But before that?  The explanation thus requires further delving in order for it to be discovered.

But where else can you delve?  We've got no references, and saying that a cultural story about some mistake at the beginning of time is merely an anachronistic euphemism for original sin.  Basically, there's nowhere to go but down -  into the human soul.

We as human beings have a deep yearning for drama.  Not because we're all queens looking to screw each other over.  Get General Hospital out of your head.  No, it's because we seek to give purpose to our lives.  We seek to fulfill that purpose, and via that fulfillment we will have given our own answer to why we are here.  The need for drama is a method through which we fulfill our own, self-determined purposes.  Regret then is a marker, a clear indicator that you tried.  You did your damnedest and made your decisions in an attempt to fulfill your personal legend - yes, I just finished reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

Having regret is not the only indicator that one tried to fulfill his/her purpose.  But it is the strongest, because it also meant that you failed at achievement.  You reached, and you fell.  As a marker of progress, regret is paradoxical then.  It is both a reason to exalt and a reason to console, a sign that you made choices and decisions few have the courage to make - but you just couldn't follow through and get the goal.  Does this, the sign post nature of regret, explain why we love it in our heroes?

To a degree, yes.  But a deeper facet remains, and I've gotta let it out.  We, as human beings, like to see people rise above our base nature.  And we equally adore seeing them fall back down.  It's a reflection of our own dualism, and heroes with regret are those men and women who travel between the twin realms of triumph and failure.  We see them rise, because they've made choices we could never hope to make.  And then when they fall we love them more, because we see that, in fact, they truly are human.

What does this mean though?  Can a hero only be filled with regret, never grasping onto true success?  No, absolutely not.  Regret is not the absence of succes.  Achilles achieved fame beyond recognition or legend to become myth, an honor reserved only for Gods.  He got his success.  But at a price.  The woman he loved was but an ephemeral memory, a transient who filled his vision for but a second before Paris struck him down.  Did he, as a man, regret not living a life with this woman?  Yes.  And that is what regret is, at its most basic core without accoutrements or extra adornments.  It is the absence of perfection, gained through the courageous pursuit of purpose and fulfillment.

Which is why we love our heroes to have regret.  Their pain means more than just a good story.  It means they fought, and bit, and gnawed, and scrambled their way through Hellfire and all its friends to get to rapture.  They represent the best of us when they have regret, and the worst of us at the same time. There's a reason why Narcissus is a legend: human beings love looking in the mirror.  What we find enraptures our considerable mental faculty, fascinates our imagination.  Heroes with regret are our most potent reflections, emblazoned in crystalline form without impurity.  They have tried, and they have failed, and then they tried again.  We love them, adore them, cherish them.  Because at the end of the day, when all has been said and done, these reminders of what we can become and what we are paint beauty upon this dry canvas.  God (swt), how I hope Briok can be a hero.  Until next time then.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How The Last Airbender Has Inspired Me

Hello Reader.  Yes, it's a weird title to have.  Especially since The Last Airbender received a dismal 8% so far on Rotten Tomatoes, and a ridiculously low 20 score on Metacritic.  But M. Night Shyamalan's absolute, aberrant, atrocious movie has reignited in me a rage I thought was long since dormant.  And I think that is what has spurred on my lethargy.

This lethargy I'm referring to is the one that has plagued my novel for a long, long time. Yes, I've been working on it.  Sporadically.  But that's not good enough for someone who has high hopes, grand dreams.  I stumbled upon this article, which outlines six ways a writer can become organized.  The second hint towards an organized lifestyle is focus.  I don't have that.

This is due in part to many factors, most of which are legitimate.  The primary one is schooling.  I'm trying to get an education in a field that is distinctly NOT artistic or literary.  It's a hard task I've set myself.  So it draws my attention away from writing.  Nonetheless, I could still find time to write.  And I don't.

I don't have focus.  Plain and simple.  And everything I've tried to give me focus - from turning off Kanye West and his cohorts, to downloading Internet-killing apps - has failed utterly.  Save for my rage. Now, as you may or may not know by now, I've got another blog.  It's about Islam, which is the religion I ascribe to.  I'm a religious man, so I've done my best to educate myself.  What I know is but a drop in the ocean of thought.  Yet I believe firmly that this drop can cause ripples with great effect, forming tsunamis that can bring my beliefs and opinions in an enlightened way to others.  I fight for this, madly like a dog.  And this is because of my rage.

I have an immense amount of anger towards Muslims and the West for just plain screwing things up, ALL THE TIME.  This anger and rage is directed and funneled through my words and into, hopefully, action through the blog.  Both fuels focus me, hone me and drive me forward with unbridled passion.

I've lost a lot of that in my writing, in my depiction of Briok's life and legend.  I don't have that fire anymore, that absolute passion to publish and let my written word be read by all that care.  It's dissipated into passivity, relaxed and kneaded into submission to a fate of perpetual unpublished editing.  The Last Airbender is slowly changing that.

I am so damn angry that a beautiful show, not cartoon, could have been so utterly messed up by a man who was once great.  Now he's an arrogant prick, happy to chalk up his failures to "different accents".  I've been begging Hollywood from afar to not screw up any more of what I find just plain awesome.  But they continue to drop the ball, roll around in the mud, and expect me to pay 13 dollars for their feces.  No longer!

And this is where the whole rage part comes in.  Shyamalan has given me that focus, that passion, that fire behind my back propelling me forward.  His failure, well I want to turn it into my success.  Thus, I've begun writing an Airbender script.  I have no clue how to do it, but my focus is taut.  My anger is still burning from within, its outward spell casting a light upon whatever work I take upon.  And hopefully this light will guide me towards some semblance of quality.

Most importantly though, I think this speaks to the irascible side of me.  Which isn't necessarily a good thing.  Actually, having a temper is never a good thing.  But I am starting a concerted effort to stop lying to myself.  So, yes, I do have a temper.  And that fire that always keeps me hot, that bull I try to keep chained, has been let loose upon my fellow Muslims.  It's what keeps me focused, what keeps my eyes on the goal of helping to change my people.  This same fervor needs an outlet.  It needs a funnel through which I can release.  Finally, that funnel has been found for my writing.  Thanks Shyamalan for being such a colossal screw up.  The friendly neighborhood Afghan is coming after your legacy.  I'm going to rip it apart, and leave in place a collective effort shining with quality.  Because I know the secret to success: collaboration, you arrogant prick.

But most of all?  Thanks for giving my hot ire, that rests in my soul all hours of the day and night, another place to fan its smoldering coal.  Briok, you will be written.  Your legend will be told.  Until Next Time Then.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weary Summer Days

Hello Reader! I'm hoping today finds you well.  I really have nothing to talk about today, seeing as how my writing is on the backburner while I raze myself over my summer school schedule.  Hellish chemistry labs, work schedule, and statistics labs that keep me up from nigh dawn till nigh dusk.  And then some, considering the amount of homework piling upon my shoulders.

Anyways, this post isn't to rant or rave.  It's to say thanks for paying attention to this, the legend of a work in progress.  After six years, four years I'm rewriting the book again and hopefully it will turn out better this time.  Better enough to launch a publishing career? Let's hope so.  I digress however.  Thank you and please, as always, comment, critique, suggest.  Until next time then.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm Back

Hello Reader!  Sorry I’ve been out for so long, Blogger and I were having a tussle and it took me a while longer than I thought it would to win.  Anyways, I should update everyone on the status of my contest participation.  The Shirley Collier Prize people have not contacted me, and June 4th was the day to do so.  I’m hoping against hope that this lack of response is due to the fact that I am not a Humanities major, which was one of the requirements to participate.

Or it could be that my manuscript wasn’t up to par, which it wasn’t.  One hour before the deadline I found that a portion of a chapter had actually been spliced to another chapter when I was still editing the manuscript.  I was shocked and scared out of my mind.  Without that portion, the chapter was short and meaningless.  So instead of doing my best to fill in something within the next hour, I panicked, deleted the paragraph I had written while editing, and submitted.

Plus, I’ve found a glaring inequity in my story overall.  The Proxy Wars: Dramatis Personae is one of four books in a volume.  But it’s not being released at the same time as the other books.  Thus, it is absolutely imperative that the novel stands on its own as a story with a singular theme and plot.  Dramatis Personae does not.  It has a theme, definitely.  But its plot does not support the theme, because there isn’t a standalone conflict.  Dramatis Personae serves as the introduction to every character I will use in the first volume of the story.  And it only does that. 

For there to be a plot, the novel requires a problem introduced near the beginning of the story.  And by the end of the novel, this problem needs to be solved.  I have allowed my characters to run around and solve every problem presented to them “off-stage”.  I only depict the consequences of their actions, which leaves me a few meager settings to set my action, long conversations, and brutal scenes of exposition.  By brutal, I mean infodump. 

While this is all fine to have, without action happening in between I am left with a tome of philosophy rather than an engaging page-turner.  At least, that’s what I feel.  To alleviate this problem, I’m going back to Book 1: Dramatis Personae and revamping every chapter one by one.  It’s going to take longer than I want, but I need to do this.  I understand that as an author, I will never truly be satisfied with my work.  I understand that this perfectionism could work against me.  But if I can achieve this feat within the year, I promise I will not touch the novel until I have found an agent.  The fact that I have spent six years on this novel without making any inroads with the industry both confuses and saddens me.  Of course, I will only enter the business of publishing until my manuscript is absolutely ready.  But to get it that ready, I have to give my theme a plot. 

Onto other news, I’ve begun ideas for short stories that I want to submit to various contests and literary magazines.  Yes, they will stick to the same genre – science fiction – but I am not going to shoot for the epic space opera that I want The Proxy Wars to be.  I’m not going to write about what my ideas are, mainly because they’re just ideas.  At any point in time they could change and morph into something else.  But I'm hoping I'll be able to finish them before the summer and have them published in a magazine, or submitted to a contest.  Bakhayr, we'll see.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Hello Reader!  This week, I'm going on a Supernatural binge.  Both on this blog AND my other blog.  Yes, I have two blogs.  Supernatural is a television show on the CW that has been going on for five years now.  Count that, FIVE years.  Yes many of you will say: it's just two pretty boy, white-trash brothers gallivanting across America trying to kill a couple boogeymen.  And it kind of is just that.  Except the show has humor, cleverness, is self-referential without being preachy, and a beyond stellar recurring theme: free will is great, but it also has its consequences.

But the one thing that Supernatural does that I'm most in awe with is make the surreal wholly bland, and the bland a part of elegant drama, possessing a beauty wholly ethereal.  There's a good reason why I say this.  Take for example the episode "Hammer of the Gods" just this past season.  Despite its clunky mythology surrounding Odin, Shiva, etc. the show managed to do something brilliant: explain why humans are better than angels.  Without being cliche, melodramatic, or preachy in any way!

Forgive me for the bad quality.  On the left is Gabriel, on the right is Lucifer.  They're brothers and they're discussing how Dad, i.e. God (swt), loves Humans more than Angels.  And how God is right.  "Damn right they're flawed," Gabriel says, "But a lot of them try...and you should see the Spearmint Rhino!"  How beautiful is that?  That reference to the strip club is brilliant, underplaying the soft sad music hitting us over the head in the background.  And it balances the dark theme with an airy tone that alleviates some of the tension.

Am I getting ahead of myself in describing this show?  Absolutely.  It's a popular, mainstream TV show on the CW.  THE CW!  Home to such scions of civilization as Smallville, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries.  Yet somehow, despite the trappings of popularity that shackle it, Supernatural soars above everything else on the boobtube.  The last episode wasn't incredible just because it asks the audience what the nature of God (swt) is and never answers the question.  The season finale was frikkin' awesome mainly because the goofiness that makes the show unique remained intact.  It carried the finale away from the apoplectic storyline to a place of common humanity that we could all relate to.  Case in point: an Angel calls an Archangel an assbutt.

Why is this important to me though?  Why is this goofiness so crucial that I'm dedicating both of my blogs to this one television show?  Because I want to write Supernatural.  I want to so badly depict surreal situations populated with real characters whose flaws make them who they are, and have far running consequences.  Is that too much to ask?  I do not think so.

In fact, I think it's what every science fiction novel should strive for.  You can read my rant about science fiction here, but in general there are so many problems with the way the genre has been written over the past fifty years I can't just relegate them all to one post.  So I didn't, and a little bit of my ire has leaked into this post.  Speaking in a blanket manner, science fiction has become more a contest of who can create better, more scientifically accurate worlds than the other.  Authors have pried themselves away from what makes any and all stories good: the humanity of it all.

Flaws are rich pools for diversity to be created and maintained, for plots to develop and push forward, and for characters to interact with each other in both heartbreaking and uplifting ways.  Take those flaws away from us humans, and we're just like the angels:

Following destiny like dogs, never forgiving, never learning.  We all know that isn't human.  We all know that doesn't make for a very compelling story.  And that's the kicker: I'm still astonished that a show I started watching just last November has taught and inspired me so much in terms of my writing.  Both Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica are huge influences on me (more on Battlestar next week).  But what Supernatural does, and what Battlestar sometimes didn't, was give weight to each character through their flaws.  Dean Winchester confronts Satan, pictured above, and Michael, the one Archangel powerful enough to kick Beelzebub's ass, while playing "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard.  Goofy?  Stupid?  Reckless?  Unnecessary?  No, none of those.  That's Dean Winchester.

I want people to say that about my characters, about my story.  Briok just broke out into a fit of rage because someone yelled at him?  Was that childish?  Overdramatic?  Unnecessary?  No, that was Briok being Briok.  Can I get there?  Bakhayr, maybe.  Even if I don't though, I'd still be happy with myself.  Because I tried my very best to emulate a show like Supernatural, to paint a portrait of humans fighting aliens without pretension and heavy-handedness.  To tell a story, pure and simple.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Science Fiction

Hello Reader!  Today I'm going to go on a rant.  Be prepared.

I'm incredibly mad at  Yes, it is a science fiction blog and thus may have a little bit more authority on what is and isn't science fiction.  But why is it that when a science fiction show decides to cross boundaries and morph genres, it is lambasted by the science fiction acolytes that once salivated over it like dogs?  Is it a classic case of the servant ruling the master?  Or is it just plain hubris on the part of science fiction writers and readers?

It could be both, but seeing as how I'm in the mood to rant I'm going to have to say it's the latter.  Science fiction does not and cannot box itself in, deliberately trying to restrict itself to the conventions of technology.  For if there ever was a time when religion is prevalent in society, it is now.  And all good art is a reflection of the time in which it was created.  Right?  I like to think so.

Anyways, I do not think that tossing religion into science fiction is heresy.  Rather, I think religion can strengthen a science fiction novel, tv show, movie.  It presents a dichotomy between that which can be explained, and that which cannot.  For those shows that are good, I mean.  For those shows that are great, science and religion intertwine to create a mishmash of the explainable and unexplainable.  Science CAN explain religion, and religion CAN explain science.  It's absolutely possible, and while Battlestar Galactica was an imperfect prototype of this model, it was by no means a betrayal of the genre.

By now, you're probably wondering what spurred this whole diatribe.  This article is what did it, as it bends over backwards to dump on God as a plot device.  The gist of it is that God in Battlestar Galactica is an improper device to explain many of the strange events that occur in the characters' lives.  God is unexplainable, that is the very definition of God.  It has rules, but can break them at any time.  It can even change its rules.  The writer of the article then compares this to Lost, and its God figure Jacob.  As a conduit for the show's mysticism Jacob serves as an explanation of the God-like powers that swirl around the island and is its stubbly, pouty face.

What beef I have with the article is that the writer states clearly that one path is better than the other.  That's only if you're a whiny kid who needs an answer to everything.  That's only if you approach the show, novel, movie as a work of hard science, grounded in steely contraptions and whizzing parts.  But Battlestar - along with Lost - has always carried with it a proud badge of mysticism, one that screams fantasy.  Does that negate it as a piece of science fiction?  Not in the slightest.

Because science fiction is not just the novelization of a scientist's greatest fantasy, or the serialization of a physicist's grandiose experiment.  Science fiction is the creation of a world programmed around its own internal history that seeks to answer questions about the essential elements of our humanity.  You do not need robots in science fiction, and aliens are extra credit.  What you need, and what is sorely lacking from many science fiction novels of today, is humanity.  Surrealism is perfectly acceptable, but if you're trying to say something about the human condition you had better damn well include a bit of humanity in your work.

To deny that the human condition involves religion or faith is stupid.  Just plain stupid.  Even the denial of religion is an involvement of religion.  If I'm going to write a realistic science fiction story, which indeed is my goal, I'm going to have to face the facts: religion is a huge part of people's lives.  Sure, you may say that religion is waning.  Atheists and agnostics are more and more Europe.  But in the rest of the world, religiosity is reaching a fever pitch!  (To debate whether this is wrong or right, go here).

Anyways, I'm digressing like no other.  My beef was with io9 complaining about God in science fiction, and not having answers explained with whizbang scientific theories that fit in snugly with logic.  Well, Battlestar was trying for something.  It was shooting for depth, it was shooting for characterization, it was aiming for that elusive hybrid story of religion and science.  Maybe it didn't get there, but it was damn near perfect when it swung for the fences. 

When science fiction blurs the line between logic and faith, and asks the audience to come to its own conclusions, rather than feed some mythos to the reader/viewer, that's art.  That's drama, and that's beautiful.  If there's anything that my story aspires to do, it's to throw surreal situations at real characters and depict in the starkest detail their reactions to the hurly burly surrounding them.  I want to be like Battlestar, I want to blur the line between God and the machine.  If I do, if I accomplish this Herculean task, I'll have created something that speaks volumes above a novel or movie or television show.  I'll have connected to reality.  To get there then, my success depends on you. Until next time then.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Updates, Updates, Updates

Hello Reader.  I promise next week will have a better post.  For now, I just have to update you on The Shirley Collier Prize.  Despite the restriction of the contest to just Humanities majors, I am applying.  I will be heading to Kinko's and will print out all 315 pages of my novel (I've reduced the size to 178 using a 10-point font and 1.5 spacing).  Wish me luck!  I'm also hard at work on The Coachella Review prize!  Pray for me, knock on wood for me, whatever it is you do, please do it!  Until next time then.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Hello Reader.  So I've been thinking about how I'm going to make myself look abso-positiva-lutely amazing to agents, so much so that they will want to just gobble me and my book right up!  The best answer would be to get an MFA.  Seeing as how I'm set on this Neuroscience track, I don't think that's really feasible.  Unless I fail this genetics class.  But please God don't push me into writing by beating the crap out of me in science.  Pretty please? 

Anyways, seeing as how MFA-dom is slightly further away than Pluto I've been looking into/getting suggestions for writing contests!  And literary magazines of course, which I've already talked about.  Not extensively, I know, but enough to fill you in.  Need to know basis and all. 

So, there are two contests in my sights right now: The Shirley Collier Prize and the Coachella Review Prize.  Both are prestigious in their own way.  Both say prize at the end, making me sound extra special.  "I won a prize Agent X!" "Alrighty son, sign me up!"

Right, well, a man can dream.  This is an update, pure and simple.  My life has become so much more hectic now that my procrastination has finally caught up to me.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Hello Reader.  As you can see, I am on hiatus for this week.  Midterms have come around, fell beasts of an academic blight.  I do not wish to do battle against them, for their fell wings and fire rimmed mouths do not engender confidence.  However, as any warrior must, I will still draw my sword and run it through their flesh.  My steel will match their ire and I will emerge triumphant, for failure is not an option in this daily toil.  No, failure is death and death I am not ready for.

Ok, so that's definitely not going to be my style of writing in the novel.  I'm just demonstrating how epic midterm season at the home of the Bruins can be.  Alright, until next time then.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Yins and the Yangs

Hello Reader.  So this past weekend I had the time of my life.  What did I do?  Not important (I was at a retreat in Hermosa Beach).  What happened there?  Important because of its consequences.  For a long time I thought of where Briok would go in his development.  I knew the end, but I didn't know what it would mean.  How would he have grown and changed?  What exactly would he have grown into at the end of his story?  I'm not talking about the end of this book that I've written, or the end of the volume of which it is a part.  I'm talking about the very end of the story, when Briok can no longer be written about.  What kind of man would he be?  Would he even be alive at the end of it all?

The alive part I can't divulge.  It's a rather appealing idea, killing off my character.  That way, no one can write about him!  Oh how selfishness does feel good!  Anyways, Briok's death or survival at the end of the planned three volumes is of little consequence because what really matters is whether or not he has changed from the beginning to the end.  I had a vague idea: he'd be more mature.  Screw me for even attempting to write a character with such an ambiguous premise. 

Over the weekend however I had a couple of conversations that were...well, life-changing is an inappropriate word however good it may sound.  I mean, my life isn't over yet right?  Can't count my chickens before they hatch.  But these conversations were revelatory.  And they both came from women.  I'll post on another day about women in my story.  For now, let's focus in on how Briok's going to be a man.

Black and white are two opposites on the moral spectrum that do exist.  Yet in between both is a swath of gray that is far more prevalent.  Most people will acknowledge this, especially in a post-9/11 world where our enemies can no longer be entirely vilified.  We realize now that there CAN be a terrified, little boy amidst the sea of terrifying, suicide bombers.  But people, in general, do not easily handle this.  It's far easier to have an "us vs. them" mentality.

Herein comes our young hero, not yet the man he is asked to be, not yet ready to even attempt scaling the Everest of expectations rising high above him.  Thrust into a moral continuity most grown men are unable to comprehend, he must find that balance so many others have not.  He must accept the gray.  For the course of three volumes he attempts to reconcile the morals and values he's been given with the realities of a world that doesn't give a damn about his idealized principles. 

Verily this is not the traditional fantasy epic, because most of the time you have a child thrust into a vast war that forces him to accept his destiny.  Ugh, what does that mean?  Accept destiny?  Why?  Accept the gray, on the other hand...well, you have to.  Otherwise you'll go crazy.  You'll build these illusions about people and things that will come crashing down with all the force of a raging bull in a room full of mirrors.  You won't be able to function normally.

Where did this all come from?  Yes, my life.  For a long time I've had trouble dealing with the little nuances in a person's character that make them less than perfect.  I built up illusions that went so far as to idolize a person, and when they shatter my heart doesn't just break.  It aches for months.  These past few months have been transformative in a way though.  I've allowed myself far more leeway in accepting others and their flaws.  In fact, I've forced myself to realize that a person is nothing without them.  Life itself is flawed, and if I'm going to enjoy it I've got to take the good with the bad.  Because the essence of friendship, love, the relationship between me and this dunya (an Arabic word of enormous importance that generally means a plane of existence) is not based on how perfect someone or something is.  It's based on how well balanced the yins and the yangs are. 

Briok needs to find that balance, and he needs to see that balance in others.  When he does that, then can he sit beneath a sprawling oak overlooking creation and let the silver clouds of joy wash over him.  My question to you, the reader, is this: how would you have liked some of your favorite characters in books or movies to have ended up?  Oh, and why?  Until next time then.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Revelations...Not Really

Hello Reader.  So I'm in the mood to share today.  I've already posted an excerpt, so no I won't be sharing more pages from my novel with you.  I will however be posting my newest query letter.  Comments, critiques, suggestions?  All are welcome.  What I want to know is...from this query are you interested?  I tried to do something different than what I've seen from other queries (that have gotten their books published) mainly because I'm trying so damn hard to combat the science fiction stigma.  I am not a science fiction writer, I am a storyteller.   The query letter is after the jump.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ah well, life goes on.

Hello Reader.  Today, I'm in a dull mood.  Grades came back, health's down the toilet, and my final query letter was just returned.  Another no from Barer Literary.  I was actually disappointed with this one.  I was really hoping she would be able to represent me.  Her style is so focused and she has an insane amount of dedication.  I've always tried to be an optimistic person, but today just isn't cutting it.  So I'm going to cut this post off short with an excerpt.

The scene is where Tory and Weller, the two brothers who lead the Cross Mafia Family, are awaiting a new shipment of their laser guns.  They are met with a mysterious person that they know well, who brings them news from the frontlines of the war between the Mags and Howlas.

“Do you want to talk or should I deal with the captain?” Tory was glaring at his brother.
            Weller grunted wearily, “I don’t want to talk.  I don’t even know why you brought me here.” He impatiently checked his watch.
            “You’re here because you are my brother.  We built this empire together, we’re going to run it together.”  Tory looked around the shoreline, his eyes scouring for any passersby.  “If you’re not going to talk, at least control your anger.  You look like you’re about to kill someone.”
            “You, perhaps, for dragging me away from my home.” A wind blew through their coats, brushing their beards.  They stood on the pier for a while, watching the boat navigate its way around a series of jetties.  Seagulls cawed behind them, dropping by their silent figures hoping for something to eat.  When nothing came they flapped away, blaring their cries for food louder.
            When the boat came to dock they walked along the pier to meet the captain.  What met them forced surprise onto Tory’s face.  “What are you doing here?” he growled.
            A Howla, diminutive in stature with more of a mouse’s face than a wolf’s, was shuffling towards the gangsters.  Thick-rimmed glasses adorned his face, an odd trait for someone who could heal his wounds at anytime.  A large cloak covered his body, shabby and dull in color.  He wore a patched hat, loose strings following him as he walked.  His fur was a dark shade of brown, with red streaks flitting in and out of sight as he moved.  His ears were intact and his stomach was absent of any scars.  He was the exact opposite of a Howlian warrior.
            “How are you Tory?  Weller?  I’m glad both of you are here,” the Howla took his hat off and held it against his chest.  “Please, if you will follow me I want to discuss a few things with you before you take these away.”
            Tory flinched slightly when the mysterious Howla had put his arm on him, turning away towards Weller with a look of apprehension filling his eyes. 
            “What do you want from us Harry?  We haven’t done anything wrong.” Weller was bristling as well, his frustration showing in his voice.
            “Not yet,” Harry giggled, a high-pitched wheezing sound that scared the birds in front of them, “No, not yet.  I’m here to make sure you never do.”  He took a few more steps past the docked ship and let his hands clasp in front of him. 
            “Did you know that the Holy Prophet Howlamega has killed the twenty-fifth Magna Beast?”  Harry smiled at the awe in both Tory and Weller’s faces, “I see you have yet to hear the good news.  Well, this death we have finally come upon is momentous, as I am sure you know.” 
            Tory’s look of awe turned to anger, “What does this have to do with us?”
            Harry gave a wry smile, crinkling his face into a terrible mask of conceit, “As the ambassador of the Holy Prophet, it is my duty to tell you of the Rewards that have been placed upon us.  Due to Sulfanen the Lion’s death, we have been given the unique opportunity to build our army without hindrance from the Mags.  Obviously, you understand the implications for your families.”
            Weller’s bristling turned to outright rage.  He grabbed Harry by the throat and lifted him with one hand, “How dare you attempt to use us, just after my son dies?  You want to kill more boys for your war?”
            As Harry struggled, Tory looked on with equal hatred.  Restrained as he was, he also stepped towards the dangling Harry, his body tense.  “We have accepted your help from afar as a business transaction.  Not as a favor.  I don’t give a damn about the Howlamega’s dreams.  Your war is not ours. We’re trying to make a living.”  But Tory’s words were lost upon Harry.  Though his life was slowly being ripped away from him, he was smiling.  His wheezing laugh could be heard through Weller’s grunts of frustration. 
            “Stop laughing!” Weller dug his hands deeper into Harry’s throat, “Stop laughing I said, you conniving bastard.”
            It was to no avail.  Harry continued with his giggling fit, his hands now hanging limp at his sides.  He was doing nothing to stop the attack, nothing to stop his life from escaping him.  Tory’s eyes narrowed when Harry looked to the bow of the ship. “Stop Weller!” Tory pushed Weller’s arm down, forcing him to let Harry go.  “The Howlamega’s here,” Tory whispered into his brother’s ear.  He followed Harry’s dark eyes and saw a wisp of smoke slither away.
            “Good boy Tory.” Clasping his throat tightly as he healed it, Harry grinned.  “You are a fine leader.”  He rose unsteadily before glaring at Weller, “Your brother on the other hand is too wild.  Small wonder that his pup went and killed himself.”  Harry had to step back as Weller made another grab at his throat.
            “Where is he?” Weller’s growl was full of menace, unrestrained hatred lacing his voice.
            “As if you could kill him,” Harry straightened his jacket and put his hat back on.  “Back to the Rewards.  You will, young Tory, have your family be a part of our army.  This is your duty as a Howla, this is your duty as a warrior.  It will not be shirked.”  He glared at Weller, “Knowing your anger however, I am worried.  You must remember that there is always a limit to the Rewards.  We are not allowed to harm the Lion’s family, or the country in which they reside.”
            “How would we know where they live?  We don’t know who the Magna Beast is!”  Tory was in disbelief.  The Howlamega was demanding the world from Howlas a world away.
            Harry remained unfazed, “Make a wild guess Tory, use that magnificent brain of yours.”  He turned around to face the Atlantia coastline, “Why else would we build you up here?”  With that, Harry smiled.  “Be careful with these guns Tory.  And Weller, I am truly sorry that your son died.  Next time, I hope we meet under less strenuous circumstances.”  He tipped his hat to the brothers, and left them in shock. 

Until next time then.